One of the most common complaints of teachers and parents involves difficulty with following directions.  So, how do we help these kids?  Despite its prevalence, there often is a lack of a coherent strategy of dealing with direction following, and its close cousin, language processing.  Many things are needed to follow directions – thus, addressing these difficulties should often start with first finding manageable components, before then combining these components in ways that look like the directions themselves.

Following directions involves using short term memory to hold known information while manipulating this information using language.  Some types of words appear more frequently in directions than others – conjunctions, negatives, adjectives, and prepositions, for example, are often used in directions.  Nearly every test item on one of the most commonly used assessments of following directions, the CELF-4’s Concepts and Following Directions subtest, uses some combination of conjunctions, negatives, and prepositions.  These concepts are particularly critical in academic directions.  The ability to follow any specific direction depends upon the ability to comprehend the specific words within the direction.  Not all one step directions are created equal.  For example, a one step direction containing a negative is often more difficult than one with a similarly placed adjective.

Here is an example of how a developmental hierarchy might look for direction following:


Obviously, following directions also requires aspects outside the domain of language, such as motivation, interest, and attention.   Increasing proficiency in language should provide a natural boost to these overlapping aspects.  For some specific activity ideas, please take a look at this link from my other web site,