Do you find yourself asking your student or child to "come here" only to be met with no response? You continue to call their name, but nothing happens? You may wonder if they even heard you. When we ask a child to, "come here" we expect them to come with a positive attitude and right away. How can you teach a child to come right away when asked?
This is a common deficit for young children, especially young children who may have developmental delays. There are a few reasons why a child may be struggling with following this instruction.
1. It may be that the child does not understand what, "come here" means.
2. The child is distracted and does not realize you are talking to them.
3. The child heard you and is choosing not to come when asked.
We will discuss strategies to teach a child to come when asked for all three situations.
Situation 1: Lack of Understanding
Often times with young children or children with special needs we assume that they understand the instruction we are asking of them. Sometimes they are not doing what we asked because they don't understand the words we are saying. You may need to teach the child what the words, "come here" mean. If the child does not understand the instruction of "come here" you want to start teaching by using a strategy called errorless learning. Errorless learning is when you give the instruction, immediately followed by a prompt to ensure the child responds correctly and then reinforce that desired behavior. In this example of teaching a child to come when asked, it may be helpful to have 2 people available to prompt the child to respond when called. The first adult will call the child's name and ask them to "come here". The second adult will immediately prompt or help the child to go to the first adult. The prompt might be tapping the child on the back, pointing in the direction of the other adult or physically guiding the child to the first adult. You want to avoid repeating the instruction to "come here." It is important for the child to learn to come the first time they are asked and not the 3rd, 4th or 5th time. The last part is to reinforce the behavior of coming if the child comes right away. The reinforcer should be something that is highly preferred that the child has limited access to throughout the day. The adult may even be holding it in their hand show the child what they get when they come when asked. When the child receives the tangible reinforcer the adult should aways pair it with verbal praise. (i.e. toy and "good job coming") Over time, as the child becomes more successful in performing this skill, the prompt and tangible reinforcer should be faded so the social praise of, "good job!" is reinforcing in itself. Be sure not to give the child access to the reinforcer unless they come right away. We want the child to learn that they need to come the 1st time they are asked and not the 5th time.
Situation 2: Distracted Child
In this case the child understands the instruction of "come here," but maybe did not hear the instruction because they were distracted. Your child might be playing with a favorite toy, watching tv or there may be so much going on around them that they are struggling with focusing on a single person or instruction. If you know your child is distracted it is important to gain their attention prior to delivering the instruction. This may be done by calling the child's name, getting down on their level, gaining eye contact or removing or ceasing a preferred toy or activity. Only give the instruction once you have the child's attention. This may be more work, but it will reduce frustration for you and the child in the long run.
Situation 3: Disobedience
In this situation the child not coming when asked is no longer a result of a skill deficit or being distracted. It is a result of the child choosing not to follow the instruction. Now, lets face it, all children and adults for that matter choose not to follow a direct instruction some of the time. There will be times when the child chooses not to come. How can you support the child in making the right choice?
Set expectations - Let the child know that when you ask them to "come" you expect them to come right away the first time you ask. Let them know what will happen when they choose to come when asked and what the results will be if they choose not to.
Priming - Before you ask them to come, remind them what the expectations are.
Reinforcement - Deliver a reinforcer when they choose to come right away and withhold access to a reinforcer when they choose not to. This may be a toy, edible, sticker or social praise.
Using a strategy called Social Skills Training may also help teach the child to come when asked. Social Skills Training (SST) is an evidence-based practice for teaching individuals appropriate social skills. Follow the procedure below to use SST to teach the skill of "come here":
Explain what you will be teaching and why.
Model or show the child what coming here looks like.
Setup opportunities for the child to practice the skill of "come here".
Give feedback to the child. Let them know if they are doing it correctly or incorrectly.
Provide reinforcement when the child does come immediately.
Practice it throughout the day during naturally occurring opportunities.
For more information on social skills training check out my post here.
Distance Learning & "Come Here"
Teaching your young students with special needs to "come here" when asked is an important skill to learn at school and at home. It can also be worked on during distance learning. It requires additional support from the parent, but teachers can setup opportunities for their students to practice "coming" to the computer screen when asked. Remind the parents of what is expected and that you want the parent to help their child come when asked to. The parent may need to provide a reinforcer for "coming" depending on the student. Below is a lesson plan with a visual for teaching your child or student to "come here" when asked during distance learning as well as at home.
A few little tips for teaching this skill.
1. Be patient, it will take time.
2. Be consistent. Practice it daily and multiple times a day with the child.
3. Be forgiving. Children are not perfect and they are not going to come to you 100% of the time.
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Until next time!
Free Lesson Plans: