Following directions

Okay, me again, asking for advice from anyone who knows....

I'm teaching a ten-year-old over the phone--English grammar, reading and writing, mainly. He is very bright and friendly, and gets along with me well, and he has every intention of doing what he's supposed to. However, I have realized that his biggest problem--well, two of them, actually--is that a) he does everything in a rush, and b) he therefore never actually SEES the directions he is supposedly reading, despite the best intentions in the world. His mind is like a butterfly, that never touches down anywhere for more than a fraction of a second. I do NOT think he has ADHD (yes, I've had a fair amount of experience with it) because the phenomenon appears to be localized to this area of his life. Yes, I know he should be tested anyway, but it ain't gonna happen (geographical isolation plus parental issues). Local school is crap through no fault of their own, which is why I got called in in the first place. So I've got to go with what I can scrape up on my own to solve this problem.

I'm doing the constant patient reminder thing. I am writing down all his assignments / instructions and emailing them to him so he can refer back to them as often as he wants. I am NOT imposing punishment other than the natural consequences of this behavior, which is to have to do it over again (which in itself is a pretty bleah outcome for a kid who rushes). I am certainly not yelling at him.

But is this all I can do, or has anybody got better ideas?

I regret to say that parental help is going to be very limited, as the mother would like to help but is constrained by the abusive, controlling, isolating father, who also has very stereotypical ideas of manhood--so (for instance) having him follow a complicated recipe to make something yummy in the kitchen with Mom isn't going to fly. Nor is he interested in Legos (I know, what?), so assigning him that isn't going to work.

Whatever I do is going to have to be divisible into gradations (easy, medium, harder) so he doesn't get discouraged and gets to succeed a fair amount of the time.

Ideas? Pretty pretty please?

Comments

  • What about text to voice software - I think there's free stuff on the market - that will speak the instructions to him. That might slow him down a bit. It might be that one of his challenges has to do with somehow internalizing what he reads. Or you could do a voice recording of you reading the instructions.

    In my work with students with diagnosed disabilities, this seems to be a standard suggestion from the psychologist for all kinds of learning challenges.

    Another possibility is to put a separate instruction on each page of something like a powerpoint, so that one step gets completed before he moves on to the next step. That way, at least for now, you are doing the "chunking" and forcing a slow down.

    One more thought. Encourage him to take a breath and touch the table or his chair or stomp his foot at the end of each instruction to connect his sensory self to the words that he is scanning. Perhaps encourage him to read the instructions out loud so that he hears himself speaking the words - again, more sensory input and reinforcement.

    My ideas, for whatever they're worth... or not!
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    Have him read the directions aloud back to you slooowly. Ask him to explain what he thinks they mean. If he doesn't get it, explain it in a different way. Then ask him again: what did you tell him?

    It may be that he has gotten used to people getting impatient enough to do the work for him. You won't. I used to tutor, and kids would try that with me. I would do one math problem from the assignment or one grammar sentence. then if the student wasn't getting it, we'd do practice examples until they were ready to do the assigned work. They would quickly get tired of doing practice and know that the real work was still ahead of them.
  • Lyda wrote: »
    Have him read the directions aloud back to you slooowly. Ask him to explain what he thinks they mean. If he doesn't get it, explain it in a different way. Then ask him again: what did you tell him?

    This. I have a kid who skims instructions, and as a consequence latches on to part of the instructions, and then says, all pleased "I've finished the reading".

    "That's great - where's the report you needed to write?"
    "What report?".

    So I agree with Lyda - rather than emailing him text he doesn't read, give him instructions on the phone, have him write them down, and then explain them back to you.
  • If there's a video call option, you can ensure he is actually looking at what you need him to look at.
  • Lyda wrote: »
    Have him read the directions aloud back to you slooowly. Ask him to explain what he thinks they mean. If he doesn't get it, explain it in a different way. Then ask him again: what did you tell him?

    This. I have a kid who skims instructions, and as a consequence latches on to part of the instructions, and then says, all pleased "I've finished the reading".

    "That's great - where's the report you needed to write?"
    "What report?".

    So I agree with Lyda - rather than emailing him text he doesn't read, give him instructions on the phone, have him write them down, and then explain them back to you.

    This. This is the kid.

    It isn't comprehension at all--I've caught a couple of those errors, and they were quickly and easily explained and fixed. It's the skimming.

    About video calls/Zoom--Can't do video, we tried it and they don't have the bandwidth or something. They are way out in the desert. And it doesn't help that they tend to speak AWAY from the mike, and I am slightly deaf!

    I generally give instructions twice--first orally, and then in written form to remove all doubt / memory problems. Almost all of the time he gets MY directions right (not today, but there you go)--however, he routinely gets the instructions in his workbook wrong, and it's absolutely not an understanding issue. It's that butterfly thing. When he does get my instructions wrong, the error is always a page number thing--he does 107 instead of 113 or what have you. (No, it's not dyslexia AFAICT, and with the same caveats about testing.) This last time it appears to have been a sequence thing--he read an instruction telling him to do 98 and 99, but omit 100 and 101--and promptly did the opposite. But I can't say I've caught him in any other sequence issues--a lot of these are just plain random. Also has a tendency to race ahead (which I've put a stop to) and voluntarily do pages and pages ahead, usually wrongly, as we have not gone over those concepts yet. So I think it's all about the speed.

    I did ask him today to read his workbook instructions out loud when he does his homework, in an effort to slow him down and see if more of it will stick. We'll see how it goes.

    Questioning, I really like the sensory thing, and I've used it in the past with my own kid to aid memorization--had him do whole body motions--worked very well. If the "read it out loud" thing doesn't work well enough, that will be the next step. I am just hoping I don't get him into trouble with his father for "being weird"--Dad severely disapproves of me and wouldn't have me doing this at all if he had any other options.

    Last for now--

    I confess that I'm not actually crafting PowerPoint lessons, doing voice recordings, and such, not because I don't think they'd be helpful, but because it would require hours more preparation than I'm already doing, and I'm teaching two boys (one in high school). As well as holding down a fulltime job. I just haven't got it in me right now, I'm afraid. So we're going old-school with a workbook for the youngest, a wide variety of reading (mostly self-chosen) on a daily basis (with brief summaries, mostly to be sure it's being done AND that they understand what they're reading), and writing assignments (mostly reactions to what you read for the youngest--discussion style questions; more creative stuff for the elder, with ye olde 5 paragraph essay and etc., predicting story arcs and character change (or not!) in the current book he's chosen, and today's assignment following up on a discussion of fatal flaws and esp. hubris--to create and describe a modern day character who could fairly be said to have hubris, and a setting for him where it could be his downfall. In short, the standard mad scientist in a lab--or hopefully something MUCH more interesting, as he says he already has an idea.

    Normally we'd be doing science and history as well, but that fell by the wayside when I contracted pneumonia, and I don't expect to resume until I'm better.


  • AravisAravis Shipmate
    It sounds as if he’s what John Holt* called an “answer grabber”; he’s anxious to succeed and getting anything done, even if it’s wrong, feels better than having nothing? Especially if his parents criticize him a lot.

    I can think of a few possibilities I’d try (I used to do a lot of tutoring, but don’t have time at the moment) but am not sure how they would work over the phone/via email. Will have a think and get back to you. I’m taking my daughter back to uni today so have a long drive ahead.

    North East Quine may have some suggestions - her son had similar issues years ago as far as I remember, and we had a 3 way email discussion which apparently helped quite a lot.

    *John Holt, “How Children Fail” - revised edition from the 1980s
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited April 24
    Is he dyslexic?

    I have all the motivation in the world but still struggle to follow written instructions. It’s so easy to miss one.

    Recipes are a case in point. I made a fabulous chocolate cake yesterday but the icing was was like a block of chocolate because I missed an ingredient. 🤣

    Colour coding the emails - one colour for each instruction would help if it were me.

    I also find reading print on paper much easier, I make the font 14 or 16. (I use pale blue paper which also helps). Get him to try putting his screen on ‘night shift’ mode. This also helps to stop the eye skipping chunks.

    Maybe he could use highlighter pens in his notebook to get a similar effect to printing out in colours?


  • Highlighting key words in the instructions helps some students. I had a very capable hyperlexic student who used this technique in applied maths exams to help extract the pertinent information and instructions from the question.
  • As Aravis says, the North East Loon had similar issues.

    He found complicated instructions easier to follow than simple instructions. Three word instructions e.g use black ink or leave a margin just didn't seem to register.

    Endless natural consequences, redoing work, losing marks etc made his life less happy but didn't ever result in improvement.
  • HelixHelix Shipmate
    Not chipping in with any potential solution, but to say that due to trauma, I quickly go into a freeze state with overwhelm when instructions are given - verbal or written. My therapist really encouraged me to slow down the process - a lot of breathing . Possibly hard for a 10 year old but it may be an angle that helps unlock something?
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    I just remembered an article I once read about small children following instructions. In one experiment the child was told to press a button if a green light showed on the screen, but not to press it when a red light appeared. When the children had mastered it, they were told to press or not press the button as usual, and they were told to say "press" or "don't press". They pressed the red light button while saying, "don't press".

    In another experiment children were instructed to do a simple task, which they did successfully. Then they were asked to repeat the instruction before they did the task. ,The success rate nosedived.

    This does not give any solution to ,the problem described here, but it does serve to show the complexity of the situation.
  • Some folk can find they jump from one line to the next, so covering up everything below the line currently being read can help.
  • One of the things you could offer if you suspect dyslexia, which also provides the coloured paper effect, are these rulers (link). They are relatively discreet as an aid.

    Breaking down instructions can help, but for some young people the only way that worked for them was giving one instruction at a time. (In class with a teacher who gave 5 instructions at once without written back up, I'd get the instructions down and then either check the kids knew and understood what they had to do, or took them through stage by stage if that's what they needed.)

    The highlighter trick I've modelled and taught for groups as it helps quite a few people.
  • I should add that the North East Loon has a diagnosis of an "undiagnosed learning issue".

    His school referred him to Ed Psych when he was 7, and the Ed Psych said that he could not understand why such an obviously capable child had been referred. He was referred again at 10, and this time a different Ed Psych said that there was clearly a processing issue, but that he couldn't give it a name.

    At 10 he had a spelling age of 8.5, and a reading age of 13 plus. The five year discrepancy between his spelling and reading age indicated a specific issue, but what exactly that issue was /is remains unclear.

    One of his main issues is estimating time. He is 27, but if he is at home I still give him twenty minute warnings, and when he is in his flat, he sets up a double or triple alarm system.
  • Reading age much higher than comprehension is a marker for hyperlexia, not sure about spelling.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    I should add that the North East Loon has a diagnosis of an "undiagnosed learning issue".

    His school referred him to Ed Psych when he was 7, and the Ed Psych said that he could not understand why such an obviously capable child had been referred. He was referred again at 10, and this time a different Ed Psych said that there was clearly a processing issue, but that he couldn't give it a name.

    At 10 he had a spelling age of 8.5, and a reading age of 13 plus. The five year discrepancy between his spelling and reading age indicated a specific issue, but what exactly that issue was /is remains unclear.

    One of his main issues is estimating time. He is 27, but if he is at home I still give him twenty minute warnings, and when he is in his flat, he sets up a double or triple alarm system.
    Sounds like what is called ADHD predominantly inattentive (formerly ADD). It sometimes gets missed with an able person who doesn’t exhibit classical hyperactivity traits. Understanding has move on a lot in the last 15 years or so.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited April 25
    Might help him to be seen by a clinical rather than educational psychologist.

    (Remembering an event due to happen in the future is an issue of prospective memory. The perception the passage of time could be an issue as well, but prospective memory is probably more likely.)

    More broadly, planning and organising fall within a range of abilities referred to as executive function - and it is possible to have a specific problems in this area too.
  • It can also be a form of dyslexia, which isn't just an inability to read but to do with word processing difficulties. That can go with difficulties in: processing verbal instructions, organisation skills, time management, differentiation between left and right, and a whole lot more. (Late tying of shoelaces and reading analogue clocks can be a persistent problem.)

    Something that often goes with dyslexia is easy processing 3D images, often the ability to see the drawing moving with time or seeing maps in 3D.
  • He couldn't tie his shoelaces as a small boy, and then saw no need to learn because velcro shoes were so much easier. I think he finally had to learn when he was 16? I assume he could have learned earlier than 16 if he had wanted to.
  • Lamb Chopped, my son has now read the thread and wonders whether your student learned to read by phonics or whole book reading? The Loon's school taught Jolly Phonics, but he taught himself whole book reading, and he thinks that the whole book method is more likely to result in skimming and misreading details.
  • My daughter is diagnosed with dyslexia and has the good reading age with poor spelling combination. She was diagnosed at 13 and again at university. Processing skills were noted as an issue. But she has always operated at above normal school levels, other than the appalling spelling, so school didn't recognise it.

    Just don't expect her to be able to proof read her own mistakes or from a document. The only way she stopped timing experiments in minuets was by setting up her computer so that minuets were not a recognised word. (It just summoned up these lovely images in my head.)
  • Reading age much higher than comprehension is a marker for hyperlexia, not sure about spelling.

    His comprehension of complex storylines and concepts has always been good. His vocabulary and storytelling abilities were very good very early.

  • As I'd mentioned, the chance of the kid getting tested for ANYTHING is next to nothing (given location and Dad), and I'm grateful to say that nothing is waving loud flags of warning, to mangle a phrase. His one and only issue appears to be inability to stay "alit" on the page long enough to grasp the direction. He does just fine with reading comprehension of stories etc. (very very well, in fact) and is able to retell stories in detail and coherently in written form with no difficulty at all. But directions, ay mi!

    Some of it's boredom, no doubt. Stories are far more interesting than directions, however short.

    I'm afraid I don't know how his school taught reading, though I'm very much aware of the phonics vs. whole word thing, as it had a pretty profound personal affect on me. But as I mentioned, the problem lies almost entirely in directions--not in reading itself. Indeed, he has started reading for pleasure for periods ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours (!), which astonishes me, as I never used to be able to get him to put the iPad down. But both boys are turning into major readers. So maybe isolation in the desert has some advantages.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited April 26
    I was a major reader from age seven and used to re-tell the whole story in detail to my Mum. She was very patient!

    Reading instructions and following them is a whole different ball game from reading fiction.

    When I was diagnosed (aged 50!) my past and present specific learning difficulties became clear.

    (My perception of time is up the wall and back again!!)

    Clever kids learn numerous coping strategies without help and only someone like you @Lamb Chopped cares enough to see past the thought/idea that it’s a behaviour, chosen, thing. It isn’t.

    Well done - he’s one lucky boy.
  • Ethne AlbaEthne Alba Shipmate
    My dys- genes have been handed on. Only recognised as such through my children.

    Once they were firmly out of school / uni and settled in their adult life everything chilled out as they forged their own way.

    But at the time?
    Nightmare

    I wish I knew at the time
    That it would be ok in the end.
  • I'm neuro-freaky myself in about a dozen ways, and caused my mother much consternation (and still do). And my son is, and does, so for me. But somehow it seems to come right more often than not for the people I know. (I wonder if maybe we need more than a single model of cognitive/emotional/physical milestones of development for people to reach; I know a lot of people who reach adult functionality and happiness after scaring the pants off their parents beforehand, and it seems to be they just follow a different path. (If my pediatrician (and later, his school) had not tried to squeeze LL into a one-size-fits-all schedule, we would all have been a lot happier, and my hair might not be entirely white.)
  • I am reading this thread and remembering my early teen self, when things fell apart for me. The basic rule when I was young that governed parenting (though 'to parent' wasn't a verb back then) and schooling was Thou shalt conform. If you didn't fit, that was your choice and your problem. Writing this more than three score years later is kind of pathetic...
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    Recently I met a second cousin I had never seen before. He told me that two traits which run in the family are dyslexia and ingenuity. Most of us use the ingenuity to handle the dyslexia.
  • (If my pediatrician (and later, his school) had not tried to squeeze LL into a one-size-fits-all schedule, we would all have been a lot happier, and my hair might not be entirely white.)
    Therein lies the problem. I had one child who was gifted and bored to death in school. He did well thank goodness, by his own ability to make things more interesting for himself. He was able to leave high school early via a proficiency exam. His daughter is starting college early via the same exam so it must run in some genes. My other child struggled because he was almost totally a visual learner. Thankfully we found this out in Junior High, but only because we took it upon ourselves to demand help and on our own informed the school where to send him to be tested. He is now a professional artist and a software engineer. Makes sense. The schools are geared for average and when average does not fit it can be a problem.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited April 27
    My son, the pilot, hated his 12 to 16 years at school. He simply had no interest. Once he got to college and was doing subjects which interested in he was fine. He went to do two degrees followed by pilot training, with ease.

    We were so lucky he didn’t play up and go off the rails at high school.

    My brother was the same, many years earlier. He’s now a very highly sought after engineer. Only two people in the U.K. can do the work he does.

    Much smaller classes would be a start imo.

    My granddaughter, in Germany, will be in Kindergarten until the month before she’s seven. There are six in each class. When she starts school there will be twenty in each class.
  • But, Boogie, someone has to pay for that, and that means *taxes*, and we all like to vote for low taxes, don't we?

    It would be nice if, one day, people made the connection between what you out in and what you get back...
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Okay, me again, asking for advice from anyone who knows....

    I'm teaching a ten-year-old over the phone--English grammar, reading and writing, mainly. He is very bright and friendly, and gets along with me well, and he has every intention of doing what he's supposed to. However, I have realized that his biggest problem--well, two of them, actually--is that a) he does everything in a rush, and b) he therefore never actually SEES the directions he is supposedly reading, despite the best intentions in the world. His mind is like a butterfly, that never touches down anywhere for more than a fraction of a second. I do NOT think he has ADHD (yes, I've had a fair amount of experience with it) because the phenomenon appears to be localized to this area of his life. Yes, I know he should be tested anyway, but it ain't gonna happen (geographical isolation plus parental issues). Local school is crap through no fault of their own, which is why I got called in in the first place. So I've got to go with what I can scrape up on my own to solve this problem.

    Welcome to tutoring me. I simply cannot follow anything sequential without pictures. And I am deadly serious.
  • Zappa wrote: »
    Okay, me again, asking for advice from anyone who knows....

    I'm teaching a ten-year-old over the phone--English grammar, reading and writing, mainly. He is very bright and friendly, and gets along with me well, and he has every intention of doing what he's supposed to. However, I have realized that his biggest problem--well, two of them, actually--is that a) he does everything in a rush, and b) he therefore never actually SEES the directions he is supposedly reading, despite the best intentions in the world. His mind is like a butterfly, that never touches down anywhere for more than a fraction of a second. I do NOT think he has ADHD (yes, I've had a fair amount of experience with it) because the phenomenon appears to be localized to this area of his life. Yes, I know he should be tested anyway, but it ain't gonna happen (geographical isolation plus parental issues). Local school is crap through no fault of their own, which is why I got called in in the first place. So I've got to go with what I can scrape up on my own to solve this problem.

    Welcome to tutoring me. I simply cannot follow anything sequential without pictures. And I am deadly serious.

    I wonder how common that is? It's a fair description of my own learning process over more decades than I care to remember. Perhaps that's why good science and engineering textbooks with plenty of diagrams were easy, but the pages of maths still appear to be a labyrinth, and I have to take them a few lines at a time - recipes, the same.
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    I don’t really do pictures. I have to make an effort to take them on board. I loathe instruction books which consist entirely of diagrams and numbers.
    As a teacher, the text book I used was very familiar to me, but I realised that the pictures in it were just areas of grey in my mind.

    I discovered this one day when I was in my forties, in a church based workshop. Each group was asked to use a newspaper ( for its content, not as wrapping paper) and as we responded to the task, I found other people were talking about the photos, whereas I had not even noticed them.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Perhaps I should add that the bizarre diagrammatic mish mash that you find in IKEA and/or east asian product assembly instructions are up there with Stercus Tauri's labrynth ... quite useful for starting a fire but nothing else
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    I managed to assemble four dining chairs from one of those sets of diagrams, all by myself, and with much less swearing than there might have been!
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Yes, I've always found Ikea's instructions amongst the easiest and most reliable to follow. The key question is always "do the bits I'm about to screw together look exactly like the picture?"
  • Yes I can usually follow diagrammatic instructions for flat pack furniture. Better than badly translated Chinese. For a task like this words together with pictures works best for me, next best is pictures only, worst is words only!
  • KarlLB wrote: »
    Yes, I've always found Ikea's instructions amongst the easiest and most reliable to follow. The key question is always "do the bits I'm about to screw together look exactly like the picture?"

    I agree that Ikea's instructions are usually pretty good (and much better than the badly translated Chinese that @Gracious Rebel mentions). The point on which they are not good is distinguishing between normal straightforward steps that any muppet would automatically do (and where there's only one way around that the bits fit together), and steps where there's some extra care needed. It's hard to encode "make sure you've pushed the back of the shelves all the way in to the groove, and it hasn't got stuck before you nail it on" into pictures, but it would be useful advice for assembling their Billy shelves.
  • I find when I need to assemble something that Google is my friend. For most things, someone else can show you how to do it step by step on the world wide web. My husband who was a technical illustrator feels your pain. Nothing drives him nuts more than poorly illustrated instruction manuals.
  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited July 25
    I may as well take @Graven Image's prompt to deplore the modern trend of posting instructional videos for everything. Occasionally, a video is useful, but 95% of the time, what you get is a 10 minute video of someone explaining, badly, some instructions that could have been written on a single sheet of paper.

    I don't want to spend 10 minutes listening to you witter to decide if your instructions are any good.
  • I'm happy if they (medical test people, etc.) give me the alternative of watching the video or reading the directions. I'm as annoyed AF when the only option is the 10 minute video, and it turns out to be something any fool could have done without assistance, let alone a lengthy video.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    any fule except me, I fear
  • I may as well take @Graven Image's prompt to deplore the modern trend of posting instructional videos for everything. Occasionally, a video is useful, but 95% of the time, what you get is a 10 minute video of someone explaining, badly, some instructions that could have been written on a single sheet of paper.

    I don't want to spend 10 minutes listening to you witter to decide if your instructions are any good.

    I’ve taken to watching them with closed captions at twice speed and then pausing when necessary. It stops me hurling my phone at the wall in my impatience!



    To initial conundrum - like previously mentioned highlighting and annotating tasks might help but also listed prompts for key info (e.g. question word:____, page number:____) and asking him to identify these and write them down before starting.
  • My wife bought me an electric shaver, by a well-known European manufacturer, for Christmas. The instructions are all pictorial but, I have to say, hard to understand.
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    edited July 26
    You need instructions for a shaver? Switch on, apply to unwanted hair until desired lack of hairiness has been achieved, stop ... :mrgreen:
  • Perhaps @Baptist Trainfan is faced with pictograms for "don't apply excessive pressure - the shaver should just glide over the skin". I have no idea how to describe that reliably in pictures.
  • Well, there's one which says you have to move it around your face in circles!
  • I may as well take @Graven Image's prompt to deplore the modern trend of posting instructional videos for everything. Occasionally, a video is useful, but 95% of the time, what you get is a 10 minute video of someone explaining, badly, some instructions that could have been written on a single sheet of paper.

    I don't want to spend 10 minutes listening to you witter to decide if your instructions are any good.

    I find instructions online are the most helpful when they have no connection with the product, but are posted by some handyperson. I agree with too many times we are sent to a video when a piece of paper would be more helpful.


  • TheOrganistTheOrganist Shipmate
    Well, there's one which says you have to move it around your face in circles!

    Which is guaranteed to give you in-growing hairs/bristles 😡
    Piglet wrote: »
    You need instructions for a shaver? Switch on, apply to unwanted hair until desired lack of hairiness has been achieved, stop ... :mrgreen:

    👏😂👏😂👏😂
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