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Monday, May 25, 2009

Helping children follow your directions

Golden rule:
Give your instructions in different formats in an environment that is as quiet as possible, and reward them for their efforts.

A quiet environment
Some things to think about at home if your child is having problems hearing or focusing their attention on your instructions:

- Turn off the TV before you start talking
- Don’t try and yell over the washing machine, dishwasher or mower – or yelling kids. Turn the appliances off, and wait until your child is quiet before giving instructions.
- A room that is carpeted and has curtains will help cut down background noise
(My Dr, 2005; Neven, Anderson and Godber, 2002)

Some things to think about in the classroom if your student is having problems hearing or focusing their attention on your instructions:
- Negotiate and enforce rules about sitting quietly while the teacher is talking. Enforce the rules through praise and having a visual list of the rules on the wall (AFCEC, nd).
- Have a signal (eg. flicking the light switch for high school, clapping a rhythm which the students then have to copy in primary school) that indicates you are about to speak. Don’t try and yell them to attention (CDI, 2008).
- Wait until you have their attention before giving instructions.
- Use a noise-o-meter to keep children aware of what noise level is appropriate.
- Be aware of how any appliances, floor coverings and other features of the room may increase or decrease background noise.

Different ways of giving instructions:

“Okay, kids, collect your Maths books, sit down at your desk and start work on page 6.”

As you talk, demonstrate each step.

This can be hung on the board, or put on the child’s desk.
Give this to the child so they can tick off each step as they complete it.
(Adapted from
Motivation and rewards

"If you do your work, then you can have a sticker." This is a “bribe”.

"Remember that when you finish this you will be able to put a star on your I've Finished chart." This is a negotiated reward that is a natural consequence of task completion.

But maybe we’ll talk more about this another time.


Alabama Federation Council for Exceptional Children. (nd). Rules for Structuring the Classroom. Retrieved 25th May, 2009 from:

Child Development Institute. (2008). Suggested Classroom Interventions ForChildren With ADD & Learning Disabilities. Retrived 25th May, 2009 from:

MyDr. (2005). Hearing Impairment and School Children. Retrieved 25th May from:

Neven, R.S., Anderson, V. and Godber, T. (2002). Rethinking ADHD. Allen and Unwin: Crows Nest.


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