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Teaching Directions to the Developmentally Disabled

written by: Sharon Dominica • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

Here is a collection of activities, games and ideas for teaching developmentally disabled directions. Use these at home or in your classroom to teach and reinforce the concepts of North, South, East and West.

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    Learning about directions can be confusing for most children, and especially children with developmental disabilities. Here is a collection of games, activities and ideas for teaching developmentally disabled directions. Children learn best with hands on activities and by repeating the same concept in different ways and different contexts. These ideas are just a start.

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    The Country Map Game

    Draw an outline of the map of the country on a sidewalk, patio or basketball court. Teach children where the North, South, East and West of the country are, and also where you are located. If required, you can write the letter N, S, E and W in the four directions. Play some music and let the children walk around the map. When the music stops, you need to call out a particular direction. The children have to go and stand at that part of the map. To review, show the children the country on the globe and go through directions again.

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    The Directions Banner Game

    This game is similar to the earlier one, but in this, children are given banners which say North, South, East or West. When the music stops, the children have to run to the part of the country according to the banner. After every round, mix up the banners so that the children are holding a different direction. Children who get it wrong can get eliminated, and in the later stages, you can allow just the first two children to reach their spot to continue in the game.

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    Follow the Compass Activity

    This game can be played in any open space. Children need to be taught first about a compass, its uses and how to use it. This game can be used to practice directions. All the children are given a compass, and then you call out a direction. The children must point to that direction based on the compass. Then the teacher checks and corrects the children as required.

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    A Walk with the Map

    This activity requires a copy of a map of the local area for every child. Take a walk around the school, or home and nearby streets. As you walk, use phrases like "now we are walking north, to the east of us is the park," and so on. Encourage the children to follow with the map. To make this activity simpler, you may need to draw your own simple map.

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    Other Ideas

    Other ways to teach directions is to talk about where the sun rises and sets and approximately judge directions based on that. Take children outdoors and ask them to guess where the different directions could be based on the sun. In the classroom or at home, give names to certain corners, tables, rooms or chairs based on their direction. For example, the north table, the east wardrobe, the south reading corner etc. This will help children learn and understand directions in a better way.

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    Hope these games, activities and ideas for teaching developmentally disabled directions were useful for you. Be creative, and think of your own. However, remember that learning directions is not easy and it may take a few months or even a year for a child with a developmental disability to grasp the concept. Here is a lesson plan on directions. Continue to browse through for more special education.