How to make an autistic child respond to his name

How to make an autistic child respond to his name

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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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1 comment

  1. That’s a hard one, and it’s important too. One of the worst days of my life was the afternoon my son i were at the mall, he is Austistic but then he was completely non-verbal. He made grunts and non-word babble but never consistently responded to his name. I had one of those cute monkey backpacks with a leash so he couldn’t get away from me. Well after using the restroom to change a poopy diaper he made (boy wore diapers til 5yr) I went to wash my hands and not wanting to get the leash wet I tucked it in my back pocket and by the time I was done and grabbing a towel my little rascal was running off and maybe I shouldn’t have pivoted to toss my trash but I just couldn’t have forseen that not even a minute later I’d come out and he’d be gone. My heart sank i called his name for a couple min,meanwhile a store worker was calling security and when i explained how didn’t respond to his name and I was petrified he’d get snatched. Fortunately the security radioed his colleagues and the momentarily closed all exit/entrances. I was very grateful as we found him close to the restroom sitting undetectable in the middle of a clothes display with a big smile. It was the longest 10min of my life. I recommend using a whistle carry it on your neck. When language isn’t coming easy i think it hard to hone in on words especially when there are other noises sound or stimuli drawing attention elsewhere. Start by Practicing in environent when you dont have any competition and reward using gold star sticker place on hand or a stamp. You must keep these tools on hand always to reinforce good behavior. Ignore the unwanted behavior as neutrally as possible giving it the least attention. This work after you don’t have to reinforce offer a treat :toy could even have a system where 10 stars = prize from treasure box and fill it with silly stuff from $ dolllar store or 99 cent store and watch how motivating something so small can be. My son is now 15, he’s not only mainstream in general Ed classes, he is in Honors classes and got a 4.0 his 1st semester in high school. And now special Ed is only 2% of his day now, services include advisory, like a home room, a speech therapy club and so far we’ve opted out of psych meds. It’s a journey but recovery is possible.

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