Do autistic people talk to themselves?

Autism is a developmental disorder typically diagnosed in early childhood.  It is generally comprised of a mild to severe deficit in social skills and communication.  As babies, autistic children often don’t like to be held or don’t desire the company of other children.  Another common trait is that of repetitive behaviors, like rocking, biting, or repeating a word or sentence.

Some people have reported autistic children or adults talking to themselves.  It should be noted that many people talk to themselves to a certain extent, but usually make the effort not to do it in public.  While “talking to oneself” is not one of the standard symptoms of autism (and wouldn’t be reason enough to diagnose someone with autism) it is definitely something that can occur in children and adults with autism.  Children and adults with autism have a hard time in many social interactions, and developing comfort and skill in social situations takes time and practice.  Some children may refer to themselves as their name, rather than “I” which might make it seem like they are talking to themselves instead of to others.

Often, talking to oneself can be a manifestation of the tendency for repetitive behavior in children with autism.  One adult with autism has reported that sometimes he repeats lines from movies or TV that he found funny at inappropriate times.  Whenever he felt particularly proud of something he’d said in a social interaction (which can be painfully difficult for people with autism), he may repeat it to himself over and over so he remembers the line.  Sometimes people with autism have been coached in how to handle certain social interactions.  In these cases, you may hear a person with autism repeat a similar line to many people because this is what he or she has been taught to say.  In this case, a person with autism is simply practicing his or her social skills.

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