Speech Pathology News: Following Instructions

Being able to follow an instruction is important for learning both inside and outside the classroom. Children can have difficulty following instructions for lots of reasons. For example, they may have difficulty focusing their attention, they may have difficulty understanding the words in an instruction, they may have difficulty remembering everything that was said. Try the strategies below to help.

Expectation Instruction Example How to help


  • Get your child’s attention before giving an instruction.
(Name) Look at me. (Wait for eye contact) Bring me your… Go to them. Get down to their level. Repeat the instruction.

Instruction length

  • Try giving 2 step instructions
Bring me your lunch box and then get ready for soccer. Break it down. Make it shorter

Get your lunchbox. (Wait for your child to respond.) Bring it to me (Wait for a response) Get ready for soccer.


Language of instructions

  • Try using instructions with “but not”
Go and get a jumper but not your red one. Rephrase the question

Get your blue or green jumper.


Language of instructions

  • Try using instructions with before and after.

Put your bag away before you go and play

You can go to the park after we finish our lunch

More challenging:

Before you go and play put your bag away.

After we finish our lunch you can go to the park


Put your bag away. Then go and play.


Eat your lunch first. Then we will go to the park.


Language of instructions

  • Try giving instructions using “If…”
If you want chocolate cake wash your hands.

If you want a story find a book.


Do you want chocolate cake? (Yes) Then go and wash your hands.