Each day, our children are asked to listen to, and follow, a lot of instructions. At school, they listen to teachers’ instructions and questions. At home, they listen to parents’ instructions. At outside activities, they listen to coaches’ instructions. Sometimes, you may find that it is hard for your child to follow your instructions or respond to your questions.

Strategies such as using simple, short sentences, being patient waiting for your child’s responses and making sure you have your child’s attention will help. In addition, using other communicative means can assist your child to understand and use language.

The idea is to supplement your verbal messages to your child by using an additional way to communicate. There are mainly four modalities that we use, namely, verbal (talking), visual (looking), gestural (gesturing / signing) and physical (doing). Using them simultaneously helps children better understand your words and promote their language development.


Verbal (talking):

This is the most common way that we use to communicate in everyday life. Even for us, we may not be able to pick up every word people say to us. Therefore, for children with delayed language, it can be even harder for them to follow long, complex sentences.


Visual (looking):

You can use pictures, photos of real objects, or even real objects to show what is going to happen and what your child is to do. Children can understand real objects first, then photos of real objects, then line drawing pictures and then symbols.

Gestural (gesturing / signing):

You can use a variety of common gestures to indicate what you are doing and what you want your child to do. For example, when you want your child to drink, you can make a drinking gesture while saying ‘drink your juice!’ You can also encourage your child to use signs to show what they want. Using gestures doesn’t stop your child from developing their use of language, but facilitates it.


Physical (doing):

Some children learn better when they get to move and physically experience the learning moment. So, to follow directions, children who learn this way may need hands-on cues where you physically prompt your child to do an activity and learn from doing it. For example, you can teach them how to plant a flower by planting a real one with them instead of reading a book about it!

Finally, different children respond to each strategy differently. What works well for one may not work well for another! So, have a go and see if any of these can help your child!