Teach Instructions following to an Autistic Child at home!

Instruction following to a Child with Autism

Teaching instruction following to an autistic child at home is paramount. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often face challenges in understanding and following instructions. However, with the right strategies and support, they can learn to follow instructions effectively, promoting their independence and daily functioning. In this guide, we’ll explore practical techniques and tips for teaching instruction following to children with autism

Understanding the Challenges:

Before diving into strategies, it’s essential to understand the challenges children with autism may encounter when it comes to following instructions. These challenges can include difficulties with language processing, sensory sensitivities, and executive functioning issues. Additionally, children with autism may struggle with understanding abstract language, social cues, and maintaining attention, which can impact their ability to follow instructions.

To simplify through an example, children with autism may find it difficult to interpret multiple instructions. If they are instructed ‘go to the kitchen and get mumma a glass of water’, it might appear to be a simple command, but if we analyze, it has multiple components like going to kitchen, picking a glass, filling with water, getting it back and giving to mumma. Sometimes children get confused by complexity of instruction, at other times they get stuck with vocabulary. Also, some overwhelming sensory stimulation on the way to the kitchen may also interfere in this process, for instance a sudden noise or a unique streak of light or a disturbing smell and so on.

Strategies for Teaching Instruction Following:

Let’s illustrate the strategies for teaching instruction following to a child with autism through a real-life example involving a typical daily activity: getting ready for school. read more here


Rahul is a 7-year-old child with autism. He struggles with following instructions, especially during morning routines. His parents and teacher want to help him become more independent in getting ready for school. Now we will understand each step that his parents take to make a structured routine, through use of different strategies.

Establish Clear Expectations:

Rahul’s parents create a visual morning routine chart with pictures depicting each step of getting ready for school: wake up, brush teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast, pack backpack, and put on shoes.

Teach instruction following in Autism- Establish clear instruction

It is important to provide clear and concise instructions using simple language. Also, use of visual supports such as visual schedules, picture prompts, or written instructions help to enhance understanding. It is also helpful to break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps to prevent overwhelm.

Utilize Visual Supports:

Rahul’s parents always place the visual schedule in a prominent location in his room and review it with him each evening, emphasizing what he will need to do the next morning.

Teach Instruction to a child with Autism-Visual Support to a Child with Autism

Visual supports can be powerful tools for children with autism. Create visual schedules or task boards to outline the sequence of activities. Children with Autism may have difficulties responding to spoken language, but when they see a picture schedule with simple language, they are more relaxed and find easier to get into that schedule. For instance, a “NO PINCHING” card with a descriptive picture is way more useful than repeated verbal commands.

Incorporate Special Interests:

Knowing that Rahul loves trains, they use train-themed stickers or drawings on the visual schedule to make it more appealing and engaging for him.

Special Interest area of a Child with Autism

It is always useful to tap into the child’s special interests or preferences to increase motivation.

Integrate their interests into instruction following activities to enhance engagement. Another example would be teaching about fruits through a puzzle if the child likes to solve puzzles.

Provide Positive Reinforcement:

Each time Rahul completes a step of the routine, his parents praise him and give him a small reward, such as playing with his favourite toy for a few minutes. However, use of reinforcements should be used judiciously, and it is important to modify reinforcers accordingly (will elaborate on use of reinforcement in my future blogs).  

Positive reinforcement helps reinforce desired behaviors and encourages continued effort. Offer praise, rewards, or preferred activities when the child follows instructions successfully.

Use Structured and Predictable Routines:

Rahul’s parents establish a consistent morning routine, following the same sequence of activities each day to create a predictable environment for him. Also, if there was a sudden change, it became easier for them to depict in the schedule. For instance, school was closed on a rainy day, and the notice came early morning. The parents quickly made changes in the schedule and also planned for some reinforcers so that Rahul adapts to the changed routine.

Teach Instruction to an autistic child-Structured Routine chart for a Autistic Child

Establish consistent routines and schedules to provide a structured environment.

Predictable routines can help reduce anxiety and support the child’s understanding of expectations.

Break Down Instructions:

Rahul’s parents break down each task into simple, manageable steps. For example, instead of saying, “Get ready for school,” they say, “First, let’s brush your teeth.”

Teach instruction in Autism-Break down small instruction chart to help Autism

Present instructions in a step-by-step manner, focusing on one task at a time. Allow the child time to process each step before moving on to the next. Also, use concrete language as much as possible, as children with autism have a hard time understanding abstractions. For instance, saying ‘button your shirt’ is better understandable than ‘wear your clothes properly’.

Model Desired Behaviors:

Rahul’s parents demonstrate each step of the routine for him, using visual modeling to show him how to brush his teeth, put on his clothes, and pack his backpack.

Model Desired Behavior- Autism

Demonstrate the desired behaviour or task for the child to observe. This solves two purposes; one the child understands the task through imitation. Second important function is the connect the child develops with the parent or the caregiver, thus helping in social inclusion.

Hence, use of visual modelling or role-playing to illustrate how to follow instructions effectively is a very effective tool.

Provide Supportive Prompts:

Initially, Rahul’s parents may need to provide verbal prompts or physical assistance to help him remember what to do. Over time, they gradually fade these prompts as he becomes more independent.

Positive  Prompt Autism

Offer supportive prompts or cues to assist the child in remembering what to do. Gradually fade prompts as the child gains confidence and independence.

Foster Patience and Flexibility:

Rahul’s parents understand that learning new skills takes time, so they remain patient and supportive, celebrating even small successes along the way. This needs to be remembered by every parent that learning will take time and it is not wise to jump from one milestone to the other, just out of impatience. Parents and teachers should adapt their teaching strategies based on the child’s individual needs and responses.

Seek Professional Support:

If Rahul continues to struggle with following instructions, his parents may consult with his teacher or a behavioural therapist for additional support and strategies tailored to his needs.

Consulting and being in regular contact with professionals such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, or behavior specialists is essential for additional guidance and support. Professional input can offer tailored strategies and interventions to address specific challenges.


Through consistent practice and the use of these strategies, Rahul gradually becomes more independent in getting ready for school. His improved ability to follow instructions boosts his confidence and sets him up for success in other areas of his life as well.

As we gather through the above-mentioned illustrative example, teaching instruction following to children with autism requires patience, creativity, and a deep understanding of their individual needs. By implementing the strategies outlined in this guide and providing consistent support, caregivers and educators can empower children with autism to develop essential skills for independence and daily living. Remember, every child is unique, so it’s essential to observe and adjust strategies based on their progress and preferences. With dedication and persistence, children with autism can thrive and succeed in following instructions effectively. read more on autism therapy techniques click on the link ahead

1 thought on “Teach Instructions following to an Autistic Child at home!”

  1. Your blog is incredibly informative! I appreciate the depth of insight and the clarity with which you present complex topics. Keep up the excellent work!”

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