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Sequencing Activities for Learners with Special Needs

Sequencing is the ability to organize thoughts, actions, language, and events in order. We use it everyday while we talk, plan or engage in daily activities. According to available research, learners with special needs may struggle to remember events in order or to organize their words. This is where sequencing activities can be of help. They can help learners understand where to start and how to proceed in a given task. 

Importance of Sequencing skills 

Sequencing is a key skill that impacts several aspects of life. Ever forgotten to attach a file before sending an email or apply a discount code before making a purchase? See how forgetting the order of subtasks can affect our everyday lives? 

For people with special needs, the trouble lies is understanding and remembering sequences. When learners are unable to do things as they are instructed, it may be misconstrued as a lack of comprehension or inability to follow instructions.

Here are few areas that sequencing skills play a major role in:

  1. Narrating and recounting incidents
  2. Building Vocabulary
  3. Understanding concepts such as timetable, lifecycle etc.
  4. Understanding routines and transitions
  5. Learning the use of ordinal numbers
  6. Following directions
  7. Retelling stories
  8. Comprehending stories
  9. Planning an activity

Sequencing Activities to Help Learners

Here are a few ideas with which we can teach sequencing to learners:

Use Sequencing Cards

Sequencing cards  is an excellent way to teach logical order of events to learners. They can be used to teach several concepts including history timelines, timetables, and the life cycle of animals. 

Using cards allows learners to focus on understanding the order of events without verbal demands. Use pictures/illustrations of a story and explain what happened first and what follows. You can also use graphic organizers for learners to understand the beginning, middle, and end of a story.  Including drawings can help visual learners make sense of the information and can be used to encourage vocabulary development in learners.

Video Modelling

Since learners with developmental disabilities may have difficulties with auditory processing, they may face challenges understanding the appropriate order of events when explained verbally. Showing videos to explain the steps of a target task/activity can help learners understand better.

For example, watching videos of how to put on a shirt or brushing teeth can help learners pick up the order in which they must do the activities. While teaching a new skill, you may have to support the child by asking questions of what to do first and which step to do next? Gradually, you can fade your prompts and encourage the learner to complete the activity independently.

Task Analysis

Task analysis involves breaking a task down into subtasks. These smaller tasks may be easier to teach. Moreover, they are also manageable thus enabling the learner to complete a complex task. 

Task analysis can be used to teach social skills such as making conversations. The skill can be broken down into initiating conversation, taking turns, maintaining conversation, and ending it. When using steps/ subtasks, the learner needs to complete a step before going for the next.  For example, for a child to put on a shoe, they must have put on the sock first. After putting on the shoe, comes the step of tying the laces. 

To use task analysis effectively, we must be aware of the learner’s capabilities and the subtasks they will be able to perform. For example, taking two slices of bread, spreading peanut butter, and jelly, and pressing the slices together to make a sandwich may be a complex task for some learners. Breaking each step further down will help learners successfully complete the task.

Sequencing skills are essential for literacy acquisition and for learners to make meaningful social interactions. Sequencing activities can help them learn to self-regulate and to independently complete the required tasks.


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