July 23, 2013

Blogiversary Guest Post: Communication Station: Speech Therapy, PLLC

To help me celebrate my first blogiversary, I asked a few people who have really supported Schoolhouse Talk to write guest posts this week. Today, Maria from Communication Station: Speech Therapy, PLLC shares her tips for teaching before/after directions. Thank you so much for sharing this great information with us!

I have been using this strategy to teach "before/after" directions to my school age kiddos for almost a decade now.  It's been tried and true for me.  I hope it will be for you too!

Before and after directions can be very confusing for children who have language delays.  Firstly, directions are given very quickly compared to many of our language delayed students' abilities to process the information.  Also the sequencing of these directions are very difficult for some students to really understand. So I came up with these three simple steps I use to teach this skill:

1.  Write out all directions!  This may seem so basic but I have had to explain this to parents and teachers before, so maybe it is not as obvious as SLPs think it is.  Even if my students are NOT great readers, I still provide a visual of each direction.  We cannot dissect a direction if we can't visually manipulate it.

2.  Find the "before/after" clause:   I spend some teach teaching my kiddos how to find the clause that starts with our special words "before/after".  I have my students use highlighters or box/underline these clauses.  I ALWAYS make sure I use a distinct way to ID "before" clauses vs. "after" clauses.  So I may use one highlighter color for "before" and another one for "after", or I underline "before" and I box the "after" clauses.  So for every direction, my student can visually see that before and after directions mean different things.  I teach my students to find the target word and highlight/underline/box the words from the target all the way to the punctuation (comma or period). We practice this over and over until I am certain my kiddos can ID this "before/after" clauses.

3.  Number the clause and act out the direction:  Then I take my kiddos back to these directions and I explain that above every "after" clause we will write the number 1, and above every "before" clause we will write the number 2.  So using our "answer key" we go back and number the clauses.  After that, it's a hop, skip and a jump away from following the directions.  I read the direction, we talk about what we need to do first and second and the child does it.

As my clients get better at following these directions, I will provide less and less cuing until I am able to just verbally give directions.

And that's it!  Those are my 3 simple steps to teaching "before/after" directions.  I hope they work for you too!

Happy Talking!!!

Maria Del Duca, M.S. CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in southern, Arizona.  She owns a private practice, Communication Station: Speech Therapy, PLLC, and has a speech and language blog under the same name.  She also writes a monthly column for the ASHAsphere titled Kid Confidential.  Maria received her master’s degree from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.  She has been practicing as an ASHA certified member since 2003 and is an affiliate of Special Interest Group 16, School-Based Issues.  She has experience in various settings such as private practice, hospital and school environments and has practiced speech pathology in NJ, MD, KS and now AZ.  Maria has a passion for early childhood, autism spectrum disorders, rare syndromes, and childhood Apraxia of speech.  For more information, visit her blog or find her on Facebook.


  1. Gosh, thank you so much! I think this will be very helpful. Would you do this also for a very delayed 1st grader though?

    1. I would think if your student has a following directions goal, you could do this. Perhaps you would need to use more visual/picture supports instead of written directions.