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Jul 132011

This is designed for ASD kids who are verbal and have good understanding of language, for the    approximate ages of kindergarten through 6th grade, although it could work for some children younger or older depending on their developmental level. It’s a simple intervention but effective. ASD children struggle with following instructions. Often, they just have other much more interesting things to do, such as one of their special interests. Also, they tend to struggle with transitioning from one activity to another. ASD children have poor perspective taking skills, so this lack of understanding of your point of view makes it harder for them to make sense of something that you think is a good plan but they think is hard, boring, stupid or just otherwise irrelevant!

Here’s a simple plan to set up.

Teach them the 4 steps to following instructions, which are:

  1. Look at the person.
  2. Say “OK.”
  3. Do it right away.
  4. Check back

I always explain that the kids only need to do step 4 if the task involved leaving the room, then the child checks back to let the adult know the task has been done, which may require the adult to check that it was done to their satisfaction.

Now, we want to add 3 things to this. But don’t worry- it’s still simple!

The first is rehearsal. Practice doing this in a fun manner. Have them do silly things, or easy things, or pretend things, following the 4 steps. Or have them give you instructions and you follow them with the 4 step plan. Give rewards if needed to motivate the rehearsal. You could add in some video modeling, in which you have the child role play following the 4 steps for a video camera, and then have your child watch it a few times to help them learn the skill. Only do this if your child is cooperating and the video really demonstrates the skill. It won’t help if they watch themselves struggling or being defiant!

The second thing to add in is a reward system. Here you can also do something simple. Let your child know that every time you give an instruction, you are going to make a line on a chart, like a tally mark: I. Then, if they follow the 4 step plan, you will turn the tally mark into a cross, by making a line across it: +  Then tie this into a reward system. You can set it up a number of ways – a certain number of crosses and they earn a reward, more crosses than uncrossed tally marks earns a reward, every cross earns a token in a token economy system, etc.

Lastly, when you are giving an instruction, tell your child: I’m about to give you an instruction. Do you remember the 4 steps? If you follow the 4 steps you can earn a cross on the chart (which you have already explained). Have your child go through the 4 steps, helping them if necessary. Then give the instruction and put the tally mark on the chart. If they follow the 4 steps, make sure to do the + and give the reward!

I have seen this help many children learn to follow instructions. Let me know if it helps yours.

I also have a YouTube video on this topic.

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