I was teaching a music class with a group of children who have autism. We had a song about following directions and had done several activities during the class time having the students practicing following musical directions. As I summed up the class I reminded the students to try and follow directions the rest of the day. The teacher then asked the students to pick up their chairs and take them back to their desks. Marshall did not do this and the teacher said, "Marshall, didn't you just learn about following directions?" Marshall responded with a frustrated voice saying, "but it's so hard to follow directions!"
Don't we all feel that sometimes? It's hard to follow directions whether it's how to install a program on our computer or a complicated new recipe, or even helping a child with his math.
Children feel the same way, of course. So how can we help them learn this invaluable skill? We can try to think and feel as a child. We can use our imagination, use games, toys, music, and play to make it fun. We can use incentives or set family rules and be consistent in following them.
Time to get in the car and the fight to get the seat belt buckled starts? Try some imagination: "Hurry, hurry, here come the tickle bees. Get in the car and get buckled before they start tickling you!"
"Hey, Mister Bus Driver, are you going to drive this bus? Get in and get buckled and start your wheels goin' round"
Toys all over the floor? Play a game. My mother was a master at playing army and giving commands to the soldier grandchildren. She would salute each one, give them a specific thing to do (pick up all the blue toys), then have them report back to her for their next assignment.
As a mom, I wasn't in the mood to play games, I just wanted the bedrooms cleaned up. But I was willing to make it fun, . So I would hide M & Ms under books, clothes and toys on the floor and tell my kids they could eat the candy they found, but they had to put the item away first. Worked like a charm!
Time to practice the piano? Give incentives for following directions to "get in there and practice". Do your child's chore while she practices (I don't know how many dishes I washed for my daughter when it was her turn to wash, but she still needed to practice the piano).
Other incentives could be, "let's read library books when the toys get cleaned up" or "after your homework is done you can go out and play". An incentive to clear the table or wash the dishes quickly after dinner when I was a kid was this family rule: if you get all the dishes washed before the person whose job it is to clear the table gets finished clearing, then they have to wash those dishes. I caught my brother only a couple of times on this rule before he learned to do his job before starting to play.
Here's a tough direction to follow: be reverent during Church. Remember, this is an ongoing learning situation and different age groups will be better at it than others. But try this family rule: if you are not reverent in Church, you need to practice being reverent when you get home. Put Church music on and have your child sit quietly on the couch for one or two songs (or more, depending on their age). You as the parent may need to sit with your young child or even hold him on your lap while listening to the music and practicing being reverent. Keep in mind the child's age. Perhaps a 4 year old would sit for 4 minutes while a 10 year old would sit for 10 minutes. This would not be appropriate for a one or two year old. They would not connect the events from Church to couch sitting.
Yes sometimes it's SO HARD!
But what a valuable skill and habit to learn--for adults and children!
Thanks for reading,