How to Teach Children with Autism to Respond to Their Names

How to Teach Children with Autism to Respond to Their Names

November 24, 2019 25 By Stanley Isaacs


Hi I’m Dr. Mary Barbara, autism mom, board certified behavior analyst, and best-selling author. Last week, my video blog was all about not overusing a child’s name, especially when placing a demand or saying no. But we want our clients and children to learn to respond to their names when called which is a huge skill that many children with autism struggle with. A child not responding to his name once called can be one of the first hallmark signs of autism. This is considered a red flag on the Modified Checklist for Autism and toddlers or the M-Chat and a diagnostic indicator on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule known as the ADOS. So since many children with autism have difficulty responding to their name, I thought I would address it in this week’s video blog. I created and have used the following procedure to teach children to respond to their names with dozens of children with autism and have found it to be very successful. The key here is to pair the child’s name with improving conditions, which is called reinforcement. Since any behavior that’s reinforced should maintain or increase. The following is an excerpt from page 106 of my book, “The Verbal Behavior Approach.” First, tell everyone in the environment to stop using or limit the use of the child’s name throughout the day. Most importantly, as I said last week in the last video blog, do not link the child’s name to demands such as “Dennis go get your shoes,” “Dennis come here.” Limiting the use of the child’s name will actually help him to learn to respond to his name when called because he won’t tune you out as part of a long list of demands. Next, gather several of Dennis’s reinforcers which should be his strongest consumable or controllable reinforcers, such as chips or bubbles and then go behind him when he’s engaged in another activity, you have your chips and bubbles, call his name while standing behind him and then immediately touch a shoulder and hand him a chip or blow the bubbles. Gradually fade your prompts by standing a foot or two farther away and by delaying the touching of a shoulder by a second or two. By using this procedure, Dennis will learn that when he hear’s his name good things happen. For best results, I recommend using this procedure in both the home and school environments and I also recommend taking data every trial for 10 or 20 trials per day so that your distance and the reinforcement can be systematically faded out and your client will become more successful with responding to his name. If you’re watching this video blog anywhere other than on my blog page at marybarbera.com, hop on over to my website and leave me a comment there or share this video blog on your favorite social media channel. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week.