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Multi-Step Directions


Students with executive function challenges often struggle with working memory, which is the ability to remember multiple directions and tasks simultaneously. Conflicts between parents and children can arise when multiple tasks are assigned and only some are completed. To avoid this, break down instructions into smaller, manageable steps. For instance, instead of saying, “Clean your room and finish your project before dinner,” give separate instructions. It would be more helpful to tell your child to clean your room, check to ensure this task was completed, and then ask them to finish their project. By simplifying the directions, you reduce the cognitive load on your child, making it easier for them to remember and complete each task.

Below are three strategies to help you implement this in your home.

 Establish Clear Expectations and Routines

Students with attention and working memory challenges thrive in environments with clear expectations and routines. When your child knows what is expected of them, it becomes easier to follow instructions. Instead of assigning an enormous task, such as cleaning the house, provide multi-step directions like vacuuming the living room first, sweeping the kitchen next, and so on. These multi-step directions ensure your child understands what is required at each step. Without clear expectations, students may become easily distracted and forget subsequent directions. Additionally, establish consistent routines, particularly for recurring tasks. If they are assigned to clean the house every Sunday, make sure you direct them to the same assignments in the same order to help internalize the routine. Consistency and clarity enable your child to focus on the tasks and improve their memory skills.

 Utilize Visual Aids

Consider using calendars, chore lists, or work organizers to represent tasks and expectations visually. These aids provide a concrete representation of what needs to be done, eliminating your child’s need to rely solely on memory. Visual aids also offer a sense of accomplishment when completing tasks, as your child can physically check off completed tasks. Place these visual aids in prominent locations where your child regularly looks, such as the refrigerator or bathroom mirror, to remind and reinforce the routine constantly.

Practice Patience and Offer Praise

Parents need to exercise patience and understanding throughout this process. Remember, your child won’t be perfect at remembering directions or staying focused on tasks immediately. Reinforce routines consistently, allowing your child to practice and gradually strengthen their working memory skills. Further, praise your child for their efforts and accomplishments. Positive reinforcement goes a long way in motivating your child to continue following directions and maintaining focus in the long run.

By employing these strategies, parents can empower their children to overcome working memory, attention, and organization challenges. Remember, every small step forward is a significant achievement.

Parenting a child who struggles with executive function can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Let Untapped help!

For More: 

Helping your Child Follow Directions in 5 Easy Steps

What is the proper way to praise the hard work and patience of a child when she deserves it

Why Children Crave Consistency and Clear Expectations

The Importance of Schedules and Routines

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