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Improving Following Directions

Teaching the skill of following directions to kids can be hard. Kids want to be kids, and they may not always pay attention to the directions you give them. Following directions, though, is an important skill to develop. This is how we learn to listen to others or understand the steps we need to take to complete a task. Additionally, it improves independence, listener responding skills, and attending skills. So how can we help individuals improve following directions? Let’s take a look!

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Improving following directions by Dr. Janessa Dominguez

To keep things simple, we can start by teaching one-step directions. These can be safety commands, like “stop”, “come here”, “sit down”, and “stand up”. Safety commands are important for all kids to learn especially in case of an emergency.

Next, we can move on to teach other simple, one-step directions that have to do with things in the environment that are easily visible. These directions or instructions are also practical for life skills. These can be things like, “get water”, “go to the bathroom”, and “get the toy”. The more specific the direction, the higher the chance of following through and learning the skill. Again, this promotes independence and a sense of self-assurance. 

You can then move on to more complex one-step directions with things that are not in the immediate environment. This will help to work on attending and memory skills since they will need to travel to another area and remember the directions provided.

Multi-step directions are next. These can be simple or more complex. Start by teaching more simple multi-step directions and then you can teach more complex multi-step directions.

Improving Following Directions through Useful Tips and Tools:

Like anything else, there are tips and tools that can be useful to help kids improve their following directions skills. Below are helpful tips to try:

Visual aids

Visuals can have the direction with an image of the expected behavior. Check out this example of a visual aid you can use at home.


Adding directions to schedules can help with the expectation of when the direction is to be completed. Here are free printables that you can use right away!

Using a schedule to complete tasks and follow directions.


Gestures provide a motion to help the individual know what to do. This can be pointing or motioning to the area where the direction should be completed.


Modeling consists of modeling what the behavior is for the direction. For example, if the direction is to sit in a chair at the table, you would sit in the chair at the table to demonstrate what is expected.


Provide a repetition of the direction to help remember. You can also decide how many verbal repetitions you will provide before using another method to help follow the direction. Helpful tip: Verbal repetition or verbally giving each step of a direction can become difficult to remove or fade because individuals can become very dependent, waiting for the next verbal step.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation if you need more help teaching and promoting following directions.

Disclaimer: The information and content in this blog and any links and materials are not intended to be and should not be construed or substituted as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician and or other qualified healthcare professionals with any questions you may have.