Giving Directions to Your Child

It is important for children to follow directions at home, at school, and in the community, especially for their safety.  Parents/teachers and significant others can improve their child’s direction following by eliminating distractions before giving directions such as the TV, tablet, and smart phone.  You can tap your child on the shoulder or wait for them to respond after calling their name before giving the direction.  Get down to your child’s level so they can see your facial expression by squatting, if you have to. Pair gestures with directions by pointing to objects and their locations. For example, pointing to your child’s room while saying “Go to your room and get your coat”.  Speak clearly and not too rapidly.  Repeating directions is helpful after about 5-15 seconds, allowing your child to respond.  This amount of time helps your child to think about the directions before you repeat them.  With older children, you can ask your child to repeat your directions after you, which activates his/her memory.  It helps you know, if your child heard you correctly and actually understood the directions.  Select words at your child’s level of difficulty.  Use one more word than the child is using, e.g. If your child is using only one word to communicate, your directions are to be no more than two to three words.  Know what to expect of your child.  Know the developmental level of your child.  (See below for the sequence of developmental direction following).  Give your child clear feedback.  Let your child know exactly what was done correctly.  If your child did not complete the directions, show or tell exactly what needed to be done.  Praise whatever your child did correctly. 

Give Directions Your Child Can Understand

1.  First, your child understands simple directions paired with a gesture:  “Give it to me” while holding out your hand.
2.  Next, your child understands simple directions without gestures: “Stand up.” “Get the cup.” “Sit down.”
3.  Your child understands two simple related directions about the same object: “Get your coat and put it on.”
4.  Your child understands two-part directions about unrelated objects: “Go to your room and get your shoes”.  “Give me the bowl and the spoon.”
5.  Your child understands two-part directions involving two actions: “Give me the toy and put your cup on the table.”
6.  Finally, your child understands three-part unrelated directions involving three actions: “Put your toys away, go wash your hands, and get in the car.”

Excerpts taken from “Communication Skill Builders, Inc by Diann D. Grimm, M.A. C.C.C., ED.S.