Parent Press

a Goally Publication



How To Get Autistic Child To Listen

how to get autistic child to listen. A young child is seen covering her ears because she has autism.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

When you’re a parent to a child with autism, you’re constantly on the lookout for strategies to enhance their communication skills. One common challenge is getting their attention and encouraging them to listen. This isn’t just about obedience; it’s about fostering understanding, connection, and mutual respect. In this blog post, we’ll explore practical and effective strategies to get an autistic child to listen. We’ll delve into autism, understand its intricacies, and provide actionable steps backed by research and professional experience to help improve your child’s listening skills. So, whether you’re new to this journey or a seasoned navigator, this guide will surely equip you with fresh insights.

Assess the Problem: Understand Your Child’s Difficulties and Strengths

Firstly, it’s crucial to understand that every child with autism is unique. Their challenges and strengths can vary significantly. For instance, some kids might struggle with auditory processing, making it hard to comprehend spoken instructions. Others might be hypersensitive to noise, making them easily distracted or overwhelmed. On the other hand, your child might have a keen visual memory or an incredible focus on their areas of interest. You can tailor your approach to their specific needs by understanding these nuances.

Use Visual Supports: Enhance Communication with Pictures or Other Visual Aids

Visual aids can be a game-changer for kids with autism. They often process visual information more efficiently than spoken language. You could use pictures, symbols, or even physical objects to represent different tasks or instructions. For example, a picture schedule can help your child understand and anticipate the day’s routine. Similarly, visual cues can simplify complex instructions, making them easier to follow.

how to get autistic child to listen. A child is learning to practice mind body awareness to help in communication with autism.
Read More: Teaching Listening Skills to a Child

Practice Conversation Skills: Make Communication Fun and Engaging

Conversation skills don’t come naturally to many kids with autism. However, with practice, they can improve significantly. Try to incorporate conversation practice into your daily routines. For instance, you could discuss their favorite topics, ask open-ended questions, or play games that require turn-taking. Remember, the goal is to get your child to listen and foster two-way communication.

Give One Instruction at a Time: Keep It Simple and Clear

Here’s a simple yet effective strategy — break down your instructions. Instead of giving multiple instructions simultaneously, try giving one at a time. This approach can help your child process the information more easily and reduce anxiety. For example, instead of saying, “Get dressed, brush your teeth, and then come down for breakfast,” you could break it down into separate instructions.

“I found Goally on Instagram a few months ago and I thought, this sounds like a perfect aid for Ivy. Ivy had just started speaking, but her communication was still very minimal. Goally’s visual schedule and AAC-inspired Talker had me really interested.  While we want and believe Ivy will find her voice and spoken language, we also believe that communication comes in many forms. Goally has helped us offer our daughter a voice while she learns to find her own. The key is to support communication in whatever form that takes.” – Cassidy I.

Provide Feedback: Reinforce Positive Behavior

Feedback is a powerful tool. When your child listens and follows an instruction, acknowledge it. A simple praise or a high-five can go a long way in reinforcing positive behavior. However, it’s equally important to provide constructive feedback when your child is not listening. Instead of reprimanding them, guide them on how to do better next time.

Minimize the Use of “Don’t” and “Stop”: Frame Instructions Positively

How you frame your instructions can make a world of difference. Try to use positive language as much as possible. Instead of saying, “Don’t run,” you could say, “Walk, please.” This approach not only makes your instructions clearer but also helps in building a more positive communication environment.

Set the Scene: Create a Conducive Environment for Listening

The environment plays a crucial role in how well your child listens. Try to minimize distractions when you’re giving instructions. For example, turn off the TV, maintain eye contact, and ensure you have your child’s attention before you start speaking.

Improve Eye Contact: Foster Connection

Eye contact can be challenging for kids with autism. However, it’s an essential part of effective listening. Encourage your child to make eye contact when you’re speaking. You could use visual cues or games to make this practice more engaging.

how to get autistic child to listen. A young child is seen using a listening device to help him communicate with autism.
Read more: How to Help Kids Who Struggle to Follow Instructions

Praise and Reward: Motivate Your Child to Listen

Rewards can be highly motivating for kids with autism. When your child listens well, reward them with something they enjoy. This could be their favorite snack, extra playtime, or even a sticker. Over time, this positive reinforcement can help improve their listening skills.

Record and Review: Keep Track of Progress

Lastly, keep track of your child’s progress. Note down the strategies that work and the areas where they still struggle. This record can help you tailor your approach more effectively and celebrate the small wins. Remember, improving listening skills is a journey, not a destination.

Goally | Visual Scheduler for Autism

Does your child struggle with getting ready in the morning independently? Goally’s routine app on the best tablet for kids breaks down large tasks into small, achievable steps for autistic kids. Create custom routines with your own videos & pictures for every step.


In summary, teaching an autistic child how to listen effectively involves: Understanding their unique needs, providing clear directions and ample time for processing information, maintaining a routine, modeling good listening behaviors ourselves as parents, and working with professionals when needed – all while being patient and adaptive throughout the process.


This post was originally published 04/01/2023. It was updated on 02/28/2024.

FAQ’s About How to Get Autistic Child to Listen

How can I get my autistic child to listen?
Involve your child in decision-making processes and offer limited choices that suit their interests or needs.
Why is it important to establish trust with an autistic child?
Building trust is essential for effective communication and cooperation with autistic children.
What should I avoid when trying to get my autistic child to listen?
Avoid overwhelming your child and provide clear, manageable options to prevent confusion.
How can active participation help in getting an autistic child to listen?
By encouraging active participation, you empower your child and increase their engagement and receptiveness.
What role does communication play in getting an autistic child to listen?
Effective communication, including clear instructions and using visual aids if necessary, can enhance a child's understanding and willingness to listen.
Article by
Goally Logo

We help parents teach their kids life skills, like doing bedtime and morning independently. Backed by science, we incorporate evidence-based practices and expert-informed designs in all of our apps and content.