My autistic child is not responding to his name. What do I do?
This strikes me as a very strange request, but only because it sounds more like somebody’s asking for dog or cat training. Your autistic child may not respond when you say or call his or her name for any number of reasons, but attempting to “train” him or her to respond is disrespectful and it ignores all of the possible reasons why your child doesn’t even blink when you call. That said, if you really want him or her to pay attention when you speak, here are some helpful tips.
- Get all the way down to his or her level. If he or she looked you in the eye, your eyes would have to be right in front of his/hers. Think about it—do you not look at other people when you address them? How do you get their attention? By looking right in their eyes and saying their names.
- Say your child’s name. Touch his or her hand when you say your child’s name, if he or she is not tactile defensive. It is a physical cue that connects with saying his/her name and will connect with his/her brain faster.
- Repeat this process a couple of times. Practice this process for several consecutive days. Once you get a visual recognition or a verbal one, you know he or she knows his/her name, even if he/she chooses not to respond to it the rest of the time.
Now, if you want to know why your child still does not respond to his or her name, get familiar with the reasons.
- He or she has a hearing problem. Get it checked out, as it could be anything from an ear infection to lost ability to hear.
- Your child has discovered “selective listening” and is being defiant. This is especially true of children on the spectrum who are high-functioning and can communicate when they want to.
- Your child is so lost in his or her own little world or so completely focused on something that he or she really doesn’t hear you when you call. Don’t fault them for it—even adults do this.
Remember, just keep trying and don’t yell or scream your child’s name. Even if your child is deaf and you don’t know it, yelling his or her name won’t make any difference. In a child with autism, you will either jumpstart a meltdown or you will cause your kid to tune you out, and neither of those is any good.
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