Teaching Following One Step Instructions

Level 1: Receptive Language

For students who struggle with receptive language skill, it’s important to start to slowly build concrete basic receptive language skills. A great place to start is following one step instructions. Following directions is a critical functional and academic skill. Think about how many times in one day we tell our student or child to do something. “Put this in the garbage.” “Sit down.” “Come over here.” We need to not expect our kids to always understand and comprehend these directives in-situ. There is a lot going on when we give this quick commands. Our students need to comprehend this statement over the commotion of a busy classroom maybe when they were previously involved in another task. So it’s essential to work on one step commands in isolation in direct instruction.

This program guide and data sheet is from our Discrete Trial Goal Sheets and Data Forms Set 2.

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How to Teach One Step Commands:

  1. Choose Commands. Pick 3-4 different commands to work on. If you focus on 1 or 2 – the student will have a good chance of just guessing the correct response.
  2. Errorless Learning. Start by physical prompting the student. This is called errorless learning. Say, “Do this” and show your student the motion. Then immediately physically prompt them to do the same movement. Provide praise and reinforcement.
  3. Fade Prompts. Start to fade your physical prompting. See if the student can either initiate or finish the movement on his own. Provide extra reinforcement for any response that is partially independent.
  4. Use High Powered Reinforcers. Use the good stuff – cheetohs, goldfish crackers, or iPad. Limit access to these special treats except during these instructional time periods.
  5. Provide Error Correction. Once you have faded prompts and are working on mastering each comment – make sure to handle errors correctly. When a student responds incorrectly, say a simple no and represent the movement. Do not provide reinforcement for errors. You don’t want your student to just try loads of different movements and then get the reinforcer.
  6. Repetition is key. Keep at it. This takes time! It won’t come overnight. Keep taking data and working on it consistently.


This post is part of the Cooking Up Communication Summer Series!

Click here to learn more!

The Autism Helper


  1. Hi Sasha,

    I just wanted to reach out and say thank you. I am about to start my 3rd year of teaching, and am beginning a new position in a kindergarten autism program. Your blog has been my #1 resource to begin preparing for my new adventure. You cover every topic imaginable and go into such depth and detail. Thank you for your willingness to share your expertise. You are a true inspiration.


  2. Thank you so much, Amy! This comment made my day 🙂

  3. Hi,
    is it still possible to see everything in the Cooking up Communication series? I’m having trouble finding it.


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