Cues to Learning

Therapists and teachers implement a variety of strategies and techniques to help children learn.  You may be using these techniques already and not even know it. Here are a few ways you can cue your child to help them learn new skills:

Physical Cues:  These cues are provided when the adult physically assists the child to complete a task.  There is a range of physical cues from indirect to direct:

  1. Pointing (indirect) – We see this cue when the adult points to where the child needs to go or points to redirect the child’s attention back to the task at hand.
  2. Physical Gestures (indirect) – These cues are used when an adult touches the child’s arm or hand to remind them to complete an activity.  Or, when the adult nods or taps on a toy to redirect their attention.
  3. Physical Assistance (direct) – This occurs with the therapist provides direct physical assistance to move the child to complete an activity.  This includes hand-over-hand assistance to pick up objects, put a puzzle piece on a puzzle, etc.

Visual Cues:  These cues are provided when the adult provides a visual (pictures, signs, symbols, etc) to alert the child on how to respond.   Examples of visual cues would be using signs to tell a child to “stop,” using a visual schedule to assist the child with completing an activity, using a visual board for “first” and “then,” etc.

Verbal Cues:
  These cues occur when the adult provides information verbally and directly to the child.  Examples would include specific instructions about a task (e.g. “put the block in”), how to produce a specific speech sounds, information about a person, place or thing, etc.

You might see your child’s therapists combining these cues together to help you child learn a new skill. The most important thing to remember is to be patient.  Children learn at different rates. What one child does at 18 months of age, another child will do at 24 months.  If you have concerns about your child’s development, please talk to your child’s pediatrician and/or therapist.


Now It’s Your Turn:  What new skills has your child learned lately?

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