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Suggestions for Successful Direction Following


  • Be sure to have full attention of recipient before giving the direction.
  • Be certain that directions are not wordy – repeat longer directions in shorter sentences. 
  • Make sure to use language that the recipient understands.  I.e. familiar vocabulary.
  • Present longer directions in smaller chunks, such as repeating steps one at a time.
  • Repeat the direction a couple of times for clarity.
  • Wait patiently for follow through of the direction.
  • Make sure the goal is reasonable, attainable and desirable.  Example:  You can have a popsicle after you put these blocks in the box.
  • Put directions in an 'if. . . then' format. Example,  "If you put the blocks away, then you can have a popsicle."  Suggestion: State the reward first for some children – such as "You can have a popsicle, if you put the blocks away."
  • Make following directions fun (especially while practicing the skill)!  Example, 'the first one there gets a piece of chocolate.'  Or - "I bet I can pick up more blocks than you can." Make it a game.
  • Provide a simple step reminder, such as: "stop – look – and listen!"
  • Take turns, or work together to follow a direction/achieve a goal.  Example, I'll put a block in the bucket, now it's your turn. My turn, your turn. . . . Hey, look!  We're all done! 
  • Remember that if a child has difficulty following directions and compliance issues are a problem, work toward the goal of following directions in small chunks.  Give a reward for following a part of a direction. 

Learning a new skill is difficult and will take time.  There may be rough, difficult times with increased negative behaviors, before you get to the other side with more compliance from your child. It will inevitably get worse before it gets better.  Be patient.

Keep in mind that following directions fosters responsibility and ultimately promotes independence.

© Kate Ross, MS, CCC-SLP  (2011)

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