Why Do Autistic People Talk to Themselves?

Have you ever walked by someone and heard them talking to themselves? Have you ever noticed self-talk more in children, especially those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder? Why do autistic people seem to talk to themselves more than others?

There are many factors influencing self-talk, whether someone is on the autism spectrum or neurotypical. Let’s look at some of those factors and what parents of autistic children should know when their child talks to themselves.

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What is self-talk?

In its simplest definition, self-talk is just how a person talks to themself. It’s their inner voice or internal monologue.

Think of it as someone saying everything aloud rather than in their head. Some people may not be aware they are engaging in self-talk, while others may constantly talk to themselves and recognize how it may help them.

When it comes to people with autism spectrum disorder, self-talk can present itself in a myriad of ways. Some, like my oldest son, engage in a full conversation.

It’s basically his entire internal dialogue as he debates things with himself. He sometimes holds imaginary conversations where he takes on other people’s roles, almost like a one-man play where he is every character.

For others, they may be repeating words or phrases they have deemed important for whatever reason. These could include phrases they hear at home or their favorite line or scene from a film or TV show. Many of these kids engage in echolalia, repeating lines they hear from their parents or a teacher.

It’s important to note that self-talk is not confined to the autism spectrum, and many people may be talking aloud as a form of problem-solving or self-expression.

Why do autistic people talk to themselves?

Parents may wonder why their children talk to themselves whenever they hear it. There may be a variety of reasons for this behavior. These include:

Any one of these reasons or a combination of these reasons can lead to an autistic child talking to themselves. Still, any or all can be beneficial for your loved one.

Sensory input

Many children on the autism spectrum experience sensory processing issues. They may be hyper- or hypo-sensitive to stimuli.

A young boy feeling overwhelmed by sensory input and covering his eyes. https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/autistic-people-talk-to-themselves/

While seeking sensory stimuli through self-talk, these children can develop coping strategies for something that may overwhelm them. In this instance, self-talk serves as more than just verbal communication but a guide to avoid sensory overload.

Emotional regulation

Self-talk continues to go a long way in helping autistic people manage their emotions effectively. It gives them a sense of control and self-comfort. Self-talk becomes a valuable tool that helps improve social interaction and provides opportunities to manage anxiety.

Cognitive processing

Self-talk can also go a long way in supporting individuals with problem-solving and cognitive processing. Self-talk can provide valuable insights as they plan their actions and talk themselves through tasks that may be complex for them.

Beyond these reasons, self-talk can also enhance communication and improve self-expression for people with autism, giving them an outlet for their feelings.

Tip for reducing self-talk in autism

While there is no harm in autistic people talking to themselves, they may engage in self-talk at inappropriate times. Parents may need to help guide their kids on the spectrum to understand the best time for self-talk and the best times to use other soothing methods.

The most effective way to reduce self-talk in autistic people is to teach them replacement skills. Children may engage in self-talk when they are bored as a way to engage their interests.

Parents can help find a way through some type of appropriate playful behavior to reduce self-talk in those moments.

In school, children with autism may engage in self-talk during lessons. This may be due to their need to repeat things being said to them.

Research has found teachers can increase a child’s participation during the explanation process. Then, the child is likely to be focused on the next part of the lesson rather than just repeating what is being said to them.

It’s up to the parent to figure out the best time to try to reduce self-talk and the best method to use.

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Practice understanding and acceptance

There is nothing wrong with a child with autism engaging in self-talk. Sometimes, it relieves stress and anxiety and helps individuals organize their thoughts and emotions. Self-talk can also play a crucial role in a person’s overall well-being.

Parents need to allow their children time to process their self-talk but also be aware of their surroundings and when it is and isn’t appropriate to practice it. Take time and listen to their self-talk conversations. It can help you grow together and improve your bonds.


Q: Is self-talk in autism a form of vocal stimming?

A: Some people with autism will engage in self-talk as a form of verbal stimming. This includes repetitive behaviors and vocalizations that may help with self-regulation. It should be noted that not all self-talk in autism is vocal stimming, however.

Q: What is echolalia in autism?

A: Echolalia is when a child repeats another person’s words or sentences. The child will usually repeat the words or sentences of a parent, teacher, or a favorite movie or television program.

Q: Is it normal for an autistic child to constantly talk to himself?

A: Many children on the autism spectrum will review conversations or conduct social scripts where they speak to themselves almost constantly. These repetitive behaviors are often a source of comfort for the child with autism.

Q: What is palilalia in autism?

A: Palilalia is when a child repeats their own words. Many times, the child is repeating lines under their breath. It can often present as a nervous tic.


Self-talk during Planning and Problem Solving in Young Children with Specific Language Impairment; 2015;
https://api.research- epository.uwa.edu.au/ws/portalfiles/portal/10855897/Abdul_Aziz_Safiyyah_2015.pdf

Self Talk in Normal and Autistic Children; Kerr, M. Kaye; https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED360775

Feeney, D. M. (2022). Self-Talk Monitoring: A How-to Guide for Special Educators. Intervention in School and Clinic, 57(5), 298-305 https://doi.org/10.1177/10534512211032575

Róisín M. Flanagan, Jennifer E. Symonds, Children’s self-talk in naturalistic classroom settings in middle childhood: A systematic literature review, Educational Research Review, Volume 35, 2022, 100432, ISSN 1747-938X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2022.100432


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