How to minimize self talk on children with ASD

Beep, beep, beep. Please be careful with the door…” This is a challenge faced by the parents of one of my students every day. Her son loves the MTR, whether he is playing at home, eating, bathing, walking, at school, or on the bus. The above broadcast is repeated on every occasion, which sometimes makes people think it is cute, but sometimes it makes the mother feel embarrassed.

Talking to oneself is a very common trait in children with autism. Some of them only have confusing pronunciation; some have specific content, but they are often repeated in inappropriate situations. In most cases, they seem to get happier and happier and even become so focused that they ignore the things around them, causing them to miss many opportunities to learn and establish good social relationships. When children focus on talking to themselves, most parents will use both soft and hard tactics. 

On the one hand, they will stop the child sternly, and on the other hand, they will patiently explain, such as “This will affect other people,” “It will make people dislike it,” “It needs to be there.” Parents hope that children can understand the truth, focus on learning, and avoid committing the same crime again; sometimes they will take out the children’s favourite toys, candies, etc. to try to distract their attention. Most children will stop when adults tell them to stop, but many times they quickly return to their old ways, or even repeat the same words a few seconds later, which often makes people feel very discouraged.

To more effectively improve children’s self-talk, we must first understand its causes, which can be roughly inferred from when it occurs. There are generally two main reasons.
  1. First, when children have nothing to do and feel bored or uninterested, they entertain themselves by talking to themselves, just like ordinary people might play with their hair or loop Facebook when they are bored. It’s just that most of our children have narrow interests, weak concentration, and spend more time disguised as boredom. Parents may have questions, “No, there are many fun toys around him, and there are many children playing with him.” But if you look carefully, you will find that the child is no longer looking at the toys or other people, and has long lost interest. , Feeling bored. Sometimes children even talk to themselves to attract the attention of others and let others entertain them because they have received patient explanations from their parents before and even got their favourite toys.

  2. The second is when children have particularly uneasy emotions, such as anger, nervousness, panic and discouragement. They talk to themselves to relieve their uneasy feelings and make themselves feel better.
For the first type of situation, the focus is to reduce his free time. Of course, it is not just about playing or talking with him, but also to teach him to use his boring time meaningfully.
  • At home, you can teach them the skills to play with different toys, which can be individual activities, such as Lego, puzzles, painting, and work, or family table games such as Jenga, Snake Chess, and Ludo.

  • Parents can also cultivate children’s self-care ability and teach them to take charge of simple household chores at home, such as putting away toys, putting away tableware, putting clothes in the laundry basket, etc. Of course, the best way to get twice the result with half the effort is to start with things that the children are interested in. For example, most children who like to arrange books will like to put away books and return them to the bookshelf; children who like to play with water will like to put the finished dishes into the astrolabe.
  • On the street, children can be taught to pay attention to other people and learn the nouns and verbs of different people, places, and objects.

  • At school, children can be encouraged to be the teacher’s assistant, responsible for the small responsibilities of handing out books, taking roll calls, and wiping the blackboard; they should also be taught social skills to get along with classmates, such as social games played by classmates during recess, trendy topics, etc.
In the second type of situation, the focus is on enhancing children’s ability to use appropriate emotion management skills more effectively and increasing their tolerance for frustration. 

At home or at school, children should be taught and encouraged to take the initiative to express their negative emotions to their families and teachers in words, such as “I’m not happy today!”, “I’m so angry!”, etc., so that others can help in time. It is more suitable for children to soothe their emotions. 

Parents can observe more and actively communicate with teachers to understand what kind of difficulties children are particularly likely to be emotional about, so as to strengthen tolerance practice at home.

To sum up, in order to long-term and effectively improve the self-talk of autistic children, we cannot just rely on immediate reminders and stops from people around us, but more importantly, we must strengthen the children’s ability to independently handle their own free time and manage their emotions. Encourage them to develop more diverse interests and activities. 

This is a learning process. Although it may take a long time, as long as you persist, you can continue to reduce your self-talk. I hope the information can help everyone.


Information provided by Autism Partnership

Autism Partnership (AP) is one of the most established Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) service providers for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in the world. Formed in 1994 in the United States, AP is run by professional clinicians and specializes in providing one-on-one therapy, group interventions and overseas consultation for children with ASD and their families.

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