Signs & Symptoms

Memory For Names

Is your child forgetting friends’ names?

Some children forget the names of classmates, neighbors, and extended family members. You may find yourself reminding your child constantly, “That’s Sarah from your class.” Your child may not greet another child in response to a greeting.

He may be excited for school, but when a classmate says, “Hi Sam!” at the crosswalk he may not respond. Or maybe your child returns the greeting but is never the one to initiate an interaction.

Some children seem spacey or out of touch with others. They may wander around the playground counting rocks, oblivious to other children’s efforts to engage them. Physical play like tag may appeal to your child while more verbal interactions with peers do not.

Some children are like little professors, lecturing others about a topic. Sometimes children have excessive information about a certain topic, such as the Mesozoic era or WW I trench warfare.

When asked about friends, these kids might say, “I haven’t had time to learn their names; I’m too busy doing my work.” When asked about friends, your child may say that every single child in the class is her friend.

Or your child may have a peculiar way of relating to other kids, saying something like, “I have 15 friends, one with brown skin and another with green eyes.” A problem with remembering names is particularly notable if the child’s skills are advanced in other areas.

For example, a child who can speak in an advanced manner for his age but cannot remember anyone’s name is showing a concerning pattern. Sometimes, developmental milestones are met early in terms of motor or language skills, but social skills are not keeping the same pace.

Some children speak in sentences at 9 months old or learn to read by age 3. Despite proclivity in these areas, deficits could be present in social understanding or social cognition. This pattern may indicate a delay in social learning in spite of adequate academic and cognitive learning.

What do challenges with Memory For Names look like?

  • Seeming unsure of his or her friends’ names?
  • Saying, “Sure, I played with friends today, but I can’t remember their names?”
  • Likely to refer to friends by attributes like “he’s a cute little fellow” or “my friend with shiny blue eyes”?
  • Having trouble remembering names even after you practice?
  • Acting like he does not know his friend from school?
  • Being unable to recall the names of classmates?
  • Never being the first one to say hello?
  • Often being unresponsive when a friend or classmate says “Hi Johnny!”

Why is Memory For Names happening?

A child who struggles to know people’s names may have poor social skills, attention difficulties, or memory challenges. Poor social skills are indicated if a child is not forming age-appropriate relationships with peers. It is noteworthy that children who forget important information about their peers are probably not forming strong relationships with them. Even a child in kindergarten should know the names of a number of different classmates and be able to talk about what they do together for fun. Unusual descriptions like “my friend is a funny little fellow” could be scripted from a TV show or children’s book. Notice comments that do not sound like a child’s voice. Sometimes, children who struggle socially have difficulty conceptualizing relationships or understanding the value of them. These children may fail to acknowledge a classmate in another setting and may avoid peers on the playground. If your child is having trouble remembering names but is getting along well with peers and has lots of friends, this is not a cause for concern. In that case, it will be important to teach your child strategies to remember names such as mnemonic devices. The time to be concerned about this is when a child is forgetting peers’ names and is struggling to form friendships. In that case, reach out to the school counselor or other mental health provider at the school to check if your child’s social skills are coming along okay of if intervention is needed such as a social skills group or ‘lunch bunch.’

How can I manage Memory For Names at home?

Teach rhyming or association games to help your child remember names. Label pictures of the kids in the class with names and faces. Play a game with your child that involves seeing how many names he or she can remember.

Talk about the children in class, and use their names frequently. Model this behavior for your child.

Put pictures of classmates with names and even some of the child’s interests on your refrigerator. If your child can name all of the American presidents, he can learn the names of ten classmates.

Have play-dates with children in class. Plan structured activities, like a Lego day, an art activity, or a trip to Jump Street. Enroll your child in structured activities that align with his or her interest.

Be careful with team sports like soccer, but individual sports like swimming, gymnastics and martial arts can be great for children who are learning social skills. The adult leaders in clubs and sports are an important component, and you want adults involved who are sensitive and flexible to the learning needs and learning styles of each child.

If you notice other social challenges for your child after providing lots of social outlets and opportunities, it may be time to consider an evaluation to assess for an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Significant challenges with attention can also have social ramifications. ADHD may be diagnosed if you find that your child’s social skills are mostly age-appropriate and that the challenges are primarily due to inattention.

How can Clear Child Psychology help with Memory For Names?

If your child is struggling with this symptom to the point that it is getting in the way of his or her learning, relationships, or happiness, it’s time to seek professional help.

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