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    Teaching Children with Autism to Follow Simple Directions

    Teaching children with Autism to follow simple directions is an important skill for them to learn. The ability to follow simple directions allows opportunities for your child to gain independence, regulation skills, communication skills, productivity in daily routine tasks, and practice gross motor and fine motor skills. Having these skills are important in school environments, home, and other natural settings. Children can gain the ability to follow simple directions to:

    • “Wave!”
    • “Walk here.”
    • “Turn off the light and get into bed.”

    These skills improve the daily life of children and make your life much easier as well.

    Teaching children with Autism to follow simple directions is progressive and may require greater reinforcement in the beginning. There are many ways to make following directions into a fun, rewarding activity! In teaching children, consistency is important.

     

    Following Single Verb Commands       

    A goal set for a child may be to follow single verb commands. Hearing one-step commands and producing the appropriate action is an important skill for children to gain. Teaching this skill is best done one-on-one with no distractions around.

    1. Make sure you have the child’s attention.
    2. Give a single verb command. For example, “Jump.”
    3. If the child completes the command correctly, make sure to reinforce using praise or a preferred object.
    4. If the child does not complete the command correctly, prompt and reinforce as necessary.

    *Using non-verbal imitation as a prompt each time a new command is introduced may be helpful. For example, when prompting “jump,” jump as you say the command.

    Here’s a link to the lesson to follow along!

    aris-following-commands

    Following Compound Verb Commands

    A goal set for a child may be to follow compound verb commands. Following a multi-step string of actions allows children to learn greater independence and increased productivity. Teaching this skill is best done one-on-one with no distractions around.

    1. Give a compound command. For example, “Stand Up and Jump.”
    2. Allow the child time to complete both actions correctly and in order.
    3. If the child completes the command correctly, reinforce using praise or a preferred object.
    4. If the child does not complete the command correctly, prompt and reinforce as necessary.

    Following Single Directions Away From Seat

    A goal set for a child may be to follow single directions away from their seat. Following single directions away from the seat is a big step in a child gaining greater independence. Teaching this skill is best done one-on-one with no distractions around.

    1. Find a spot in the room away from the child’s regular workspace and make sure you have their attention. Start by standing in close proximity to the child in the beginning.
    2. Give a single direction. For example, “Close the door.”
    3. Allow the child time to complete the command.
    4. If the child completes the command correctly, reinforce using praise or a preferred object.
    5. If the child does not complete the command correctly, prompt and reinforce as necessary.

     

    Following Compound Directions Away From Seat

    A goal set for a child may be to follow compound directions away from their seat and at a distance from the instructor. Following compound directions away from their seat is a complex skill that can help children gain more independence. Teaching this skill is best done one-on-one with no distractions around.

    1. Find a spot in the room away from the child’s regular workspace and make sure you have their attention. Distance yourself from the child.
    2. Give a compound instruction. For example, “Jump and Raise Arms.”
    3. If the child completes both actions correctly, reinforce with praise or a preferred object.
    4. If the child does not complete the command correctly, prompt and reinforce as necessary.
    5. As the child correctly completes the command, slowly begin to distance yourself further from the child.

     

    “Teacher Says” Game 

    As a child masters various commands, “Teacher Says” is a fun way to reinforce their new skills. “Teacher Says” is just like “Simon Says.” You can choose to give directions or use fun stuffed animals or toys to “speak” the command. This game can be used at any level, using any level of commands the child is successful in responding to.

    1. Given the command. For example, “Teacher says, jump!” (if you’re using a toy, you could say, “Teddy Bear says, jump!”)
    2. Reinforce with praise as the child completes each command (using stickers, high-fives, tickles, etc.).

    In general, when teaching your child to follow simple directions have patience with your child, and with yourself! For some children these skills will take time to develop and a lot of repetition. But do know that as a result your child will gain more independence and skill regulation and this will make life easier for everyone.

    Topics: Teaching with Pictures, ARIS Autism Curriculum, Infant/Toddler (0-3), Elementary (4-12), Articles

    Chloe Fay

    Written by Chloe Fay

    Chloe Fay is from Northborough, MA. She is currently an undergraduate student at Lesley University majoring in Special Education and Child, Youth, and Family Services. Chloe aspires to work with children with Autism in an educational setting.