Does Your Child Have Difficulty With Following Directions?

Have you noticed that your child has trouble following directions?  Do you notice that your child may have difficulty with completing a task, such as cleaning his/her room, or doing chores without many reminders? Does your child take a while to answer your direct question? Can your child brush his/her teeth each night, but then forget the rest of the bedtime routine? Even with written directions, does your child skip a step or two, or forget his/her place when reading?

Are you finding find that you are asking your child “Did you hear what I said?”, “Are you listening?”, “What do you do next?”  quite frequently, often many times a day? As your child grows older, you expect that s/he should remember daily routines, and be able to carry out multi-step tasks with few, if any prompts. The child should be able to follow grade and age appropriate instructions in school as well.  If your child is experiencing significant and consistent difficulty with following directions, then it is important to know what may be at the root of this.


Difficulty Following Directions Does Not Look The Same For Every Child.

  • Children with auditory processing disorders will often exhibit difficulty remembering information presented that requires listening.
  • Children with dyslexia will often have difficulty following directions in written form.
  • Children with ADHD will often experience trouble following directions presented in verbal or written form. Working memory plays a key role with following multi-step directions, and children with ADHD often have deficits in this area, thereby impacting the ability to complete tasks.

Things To Look For If Your Child Is Struggling

It’s important to realize that observing any of these traits is NOT a basis for diagnosis. Simple observation of one or some of these cannot replace the expert diagnosis of your child’s physician or other expert.

  • Seems to hear, but not listen
  • Misread directions
  • Difficulty with remembering details
  • Difficulty holding on to important information
  • Mixes up what the teacher, other children, or you say
  • Misses key information
  • Difficulty with recognizing important information
  • Difficulty with responding to direct questions
  • Mixes up the order in which things need to be done
  • Gets lost when reading – difficulty staying on track

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