Johnny No! Why Overusing a Child’s Name Can Be a Problem for Children with Autism

Today I’d like to talk about overusing your client’s or child’s name and this is a piece of advice I have given to hundreds of professionals and parents over the past almost 2 decades: Don’t overuse a child͛’s name, especially when placing a demand or saying no.


I learned this very early on with Lucas when our ABA consultant came for the very first time in 1999. It was a 3-day initial ABA workshop that she did at our home, and my parents were there, my husband, and Lucas, and a couple of the therapists that had just started working with him.

Immediately after she arrived, We were saying things like, “Lucas, come over here. Lucas! Lucas, touch your head! Do this, Lucas! and right away, probably within the first 20 minutes of being at my house, the Behavior Consultant, said, “Okay, everybody stop saying Lucas”.͛

We all looked at her somewhat confused so she went on to say, “He͛’s the only child in the house and saying his name repeatedly just adds to the pairing of his name with demands. It adds to the length of utterance too and it is not helping Lucas learn important skills.

So instead of ͚saying “Lucas, sit down” or Lucas, touch your ear, just say “sit down” or “touch ear.”

Also, she told us that pairing a child’s name with “no” such as “Lucas, no. No, don’t do that, Lucas. Lucas stop” was very detrimental so in addition to not using his name with demands, she told us to avoid using Lucas’ name when saying no too. She explained that people often pair a child’s name with No and Stop which is aversive and then wonder why kids with autism don’t respond readily to their names being called.

So if you are an autism professional or parent, I challenge you to stop or decrease the use of your client or child’s name, especially when placing a demand or when saying “no.” Instead say it when you are delivering reinforcement: “Good job waiting in line quietly Joe,” or “I’m going to push you on the swing Susie.”

Tune in for next week’s video blog where I will cover how to teach a child to respond to his name when called.

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Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week.