Why Does My Child Act Like He Does Not Hear Me?

 My child acts like he doesn’t hear me most of the time and I feel frustrated. Many children with autism seem like they are deaf to other people. Yes, they probably hear you and they are not ignoring you.

One of many reasons children with autism may seem like they don’t hear you is they are either actively engaged in an activity, they are distracted or preoccupied by something, thay may not be able to filter out the sounds and noises in the environment, they may hear everything at the same volume and be unable to filter out other sounds, they may need more time to prepare to change what they are doing and attend – pay attention to you..

This is a common observation of people working with children with autism. Many people with autism experience what is referred to as mono chanelled processing – meaning I can either look at you or listen to you but I cannot do both at one time. Their brains are wired to process only one source of input at a time, if they do both then they may not receive the incoming information.

Prepare the child. Tell them they need to stop what they are doing. Wait 10 seconds, maybe more depending on the child’s abilities, then tell them it is time to listen.

Anther way to grab their attention is to use visual cues/prompts in the form of a picture or word, again depending on how they best process incoming information, and pair the visual cue with a verbal prompt – say and point to the cue at the same time. Sometimes it is uneccessary to even say the word or phrase as the visual stimulus is often very powerful provided the child has attached meaning to the pictures or words.

Adam a young man, who is very active, and chatty, chatty being a sensory dysfunction in this case, does not seem to hear the words “quiet. listen”. Adults become frustrated when they have to repeat themselves over and over and over. When Adam is presented with the visual information in picture form, “quiet, listen”,  96% of the time he will immediately stop what he is doing and respond to the directive.

This method also removes Adam’s emotional content away from the person making the request or giving the directive and puts it on the picture/word communication cards. It becomes a win win situation for everyone. Remember not all interventions work for every child. It is important to consider their abilities, their form of communication, and to be sure that they attach meaning to the communication icons. Consistency and repetition provide a greater opportunity for success.

About Mary

Hi! I have been providing services for children and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders, ages 3 through age 27, for twenty years. I also teach teachers and other professionals strategies and interventions to improve and develop communication skills, social understanding skills, and replacement of stereotypical behaviors. I try to create an awareness and empathic response with professionals working with families and caregivers living with the unique differences and challenges of ASD. My other goals include educating the public about ASD. ASD is a label that provides a common ground for discussing treatment, strategies, and other interventions to help the child or person. The label is not the child and vice-versa. Over the years I have observed many children develop communication skills, experience social success, and decrease and change stereotypical behavior into productivity. The children I work with are unique and wonderous. Like you and I they have specific interests and strengths that are valuable assets to their Quality of Life.
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