How To Teach Rule Following

Rules and routines are a large part of classroom functioning. Management of the classroom and instructional control come from clear and concise definitions of rules. Creating rules as a group or individually does not always have to be a lecturing style. Teaching and practicing rule-following can be fun and worked on with games. Using games and reviewing all of the rules and routines frequently will help decrease maladaptive behaviors and provide consistency and predictability for our learners.

Carry over and generalization


We want our learners to generalize their skills across all environments and people. Following rules is no different! Creating and teaching rules and routines do not have to be taught in a lecture style. They can be taught with fun and games! Having fun and pairing the lessons are proactive strategies to teaching rules. My team and I don’t want to wait until a learner is having a difficult time or engaging in maladaptive behaviors to teach rules and routines. A few proactive ways to carry over the skills and lessons are:


1. Define the rules
2. Connect to family and encourage carry over
3. Have your learner help come up with rules
4. Make them accessible to all – use visuals or decreased vocal language
5. Clear expectations
6. Connect them to feelings and social interactions such as zones

Games that help with rule following


There are many ways to work on rule following and other executive functioning skills needed to participate in a small or large group activity. Some ways and areas are through pivotal response training, discrete trial training, role playing, video modeling, and much more! My team and I like to use physically active games as well as board games to help incorporate skills and practice for rule following.


Board Games

  • Chutes and ladders: turn taking, counting a die, waiting, rule differences between a slide and a ladder
  • Battleship: waiting, anticipation, taking turns, understanding loss, number and letter identification
  • Don’t break the ice
  • Union attack
  • Yeti in my spaghetti
  • Zingo


Social Games

  • Candy land
  • Simon says
  • I spy
  • Red light green light
  • Red rover
  • Scavenger hunt

Resources To Use

Teaching the rules of the classroom, in a clinic, in home, or within the community is a functional life skill that all learners should be taught according to their learning style. If a learner benefits from visuals, they should have access to visual reminders. If a learner benefits from sensory input, they should have access to a sensory diet. We have the responsibility to set our learners up for success in all areas of their life and independence. Some of the following resources from The Autism Helper have benefitted many of my classes!


The Executive Functions Masterclass has launched and it is PACKED with resources and tools to help teach appropriate behaviors, feelings, and of course executive functioning skills that can be taught with games!


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