Autistic People Talk to Themselves, So What? – The Real Talk on Self-Talk

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Judging by the latest two posts, you’d be right to assume I’ve been on a 80’s British synth-pop/new wave kick. But no, that’s not it.

While changing a diaper (which, that’s my life now), my daughter Mo asked me what I was doing.

“I’m changing a diaper.”

“No,” she said. “You’re saying something.”

“Oh. Yeah. I’m talking. To myself.” 

I wasn’t aware I was doing that until she said something.

Why?”

This is a good question.

People talk to themselves. Autistic people talk to themselves.

Like, actually talking aloud. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.

There’s a difference in intentionally talking to yourself and doing it subconsciously. The former is something you probably do, and you know it, and it’s completely voluntary.

But what about when you don’t know you’re doing it? When your 4 year old has to bring it up and interrupt yourself from yourself?

Welcome to The Life Autistic.

I’ll tell you what we’re up to.

Rehearsal. This is probably the #1 reason why I talk to myself and when I’m least aware of it. It’s a certain stimming, coping, preparatory mechanism that kicks in when I’m thinking of conversations I need to have with people, whether real, upcoming, or imagined. It can be hard for us to have “live conversations in the moment,” so it’s our way of laying pipe, roadways, and getting some sort of neural groundwork for when it has to happen.

Reinforcing a sequence. It’ll usually start with “So what I need to do is . . . ” It’s usually when I’m stressed, and when I know I have some crucial things that I need to resolve, do, get right, and comment on. It’s a bit of an inner monologue that needs to be spoken, and thus heard, and if I remember hearing it, I’ll process it like someone is telling me what to do. It’s nice following my own orders.

Losing my memory. My steel trap memory has rusted, so I have to work up some kind of mantra to remember things that I know I’ll forget by the time I’m going downstairs or elsewhere. So if I mutter “Cinnamon Toast Crunch” over and over, it’s not as if I’ve some sugary cereal fixation — it’s that I’m in trouble if I forget to get it for Mrs. H2 on the way up. 🙂

Odd glossolalia. Sometimes I’m stimming on “Planet Hunter” and apparently I’ve narrated or otherwise interjected things aloud that’d only make sense to me and whatever I’m deep in thought and pacing about.

There are other self-talk topics, like positive motivation (which I can’t bring myself to do) and negative self-scourging (which I don’t do out loud). Others like me will do more self-arguing and conversing in dialogue, and I do more of that on the inside.

But as they say, know thyself – and in this case, I know my self talk.

Thanks for reading my talk about my self talk, as if I don’t talk about myself enough! That said, if you still want to learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic – or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks.

3 thoughts on “Autistic People Talk to Themselves, So What? – The Real Talk on Self-Talk

  1. My son does this and I’m only understanding now that it is related to autism. We were getting testing for autism before covid hit. He hasn’t been diagnosed with autism as of yet. But he talks to himself as everyday life events happen. It’s like internal dialogue broadcasted. Playing Xbox too, before bed. If I interrupt him he tells me he has to start again sometimes? I never put the two together (autism and talking to himself). This article helps thank you.

  2. Firstly thanks for a wonderful insight in to you and some of the things I do. But I have a question, the maybe you can answer or assist with.

    Do you find yourself reliving conversations or iterating over things that have happened? I’ve struggled since living alone, and more so in this pandemic, with finding myself reliving conversations and elaborating on them?

    Dave

    1. Sometimes – I’ll rehash as a bit more of “refining” the conversation, with some extensions of how it could have gone to an extent. I don’t do it as much anymore, probably because there are just a LOT of upcoming conversations where I’m planning ahead to those.

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