All children go through a phase where they want answers about everything and talk a lot about anything. It’s different with autism. Your autistic child never stops talking.
You might feel like you need to be grateful your child with autism talks at all, but don’t compare what could be worse or better. Non-speaking autistic people are not “worse”, it’s just a different form of autism. This is not a competition. Your annoyance is valid.
- Why Autistic People Talk Constantly
- How to Teach Your Autistic Children Social Boundaries
- How Do I Keep My Autistic Child From Talking Back?
- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Autism and Talking Too Much
Why Autistic People Talk Constantly
Social cues prevent people on the spectrum from recognizing when the other person isn’t interested in what we’re saying. Non-autistic people gauge right away if the other person isn’t interested via nonverbal cues.
Individuals on the autism spectrum socialize differently. In autistic culture, it’s normal to talk at long lengths of time about topics you’re interested in.
Autistic children who never learned social boundaries grow into autistic adults who share their whole life story to random people.
Other mental health disorders can cause people to talk constantly, such as children with attachment disorder who ask endless questions to control the conversation. This is different from autistic people.
How to Teach Your Autistic Children Social Boundaries
Social boundaries teach what is and isn’t okay when socializing. Without autism, children use context clues to determine appropriate topics and “read the room”. Autistic people don’t read the room.
Your autistic child will never communicate like a non-autistic child, at full capacity, by default. Accepting that awakens you to a whole new definition of communication.
1. Connect with local parents of neurodivergent children
Neurodivergent people are best at socializing themselves. Autistic and similarly neurodivergent individuals communicate literally.
Telling your autistic child you’re not interested in what they’re talking about is taken at face value. Even though you are speaking figuratively, they are comprehending literally. You are saying to them, “I’m not interested in what interests you.”
Another option is saying, “I’m not interested in [topic],” but then you might never hear about it at all. Autistic people share about their special interests as a way to connect with the world around them. It lights them up!
You do not want to be the parent at a loss for what is currently interesting your child because of something you said to them when you were annoyed. They will remember the worst things you’ve said to them, no matter your perceived context.
On the other hand, it’s socially acceptable for neurodivergent children to say to each other, “Hey, you know what’s really cool?” or “I’m not interested in dinosaurs.”
As a parent, your instinct might be to apologize to the other parent and tell your child to apologize, but don’t. It’s not rude in autistic culture to admit straightaway that you’re uninterested in a topic. Instead, it means you just need to find something you’re both interested in.
Neurodivergent kids are not required for play dates, but neurotypical children can be mean to people who are different from them and take advantage of trust. Their parents might perceive both you and your child rude, when the issue is communication differences.
Kids are like kittens: Better socialized by each other than parents. Growing up surrounded by people who look, think and act like you is representation.
2. Teach empathy the way people with autism empathize
Non-autistic people struggle to empathize with autistic people due to their perceived life experience. Likewise, autistic people struggle to empathize with non-autistic people due to their own perceived life experience. This is called the double empathy problem.
If you feel like you can’t understand your child, you’re not going crazy. Your neurotype causes your brain to perceive life differently. This is also why you communicate differently and need eye contact for validation. It’s why you need hugs in order to feel loved.
Empathy is taught. Humans are not born knowing how to empathize. Making your child apologize for something teaches compliance, not empathy. Apologies that come from empathy are less because society says so. You feel the apology yourself when you say it.
There’s no need to have a sit down with your neurodivergent child about you not being interested in the topic. Rather, how does your child react when you are talking about something they don’t care about? Use that as a reference.
Here’s an example conversation.
“Hey, you remember how you were when I was talking about [topic]?”
If they nod or agree: “That is me right now.”
If they don’t, attempt to distract them with a favorite snack, TV show, game, activity, or whispering. Mix it up every time so your child’s autistic brain doesn’t associate the behavior with always getting something specific. You don’t want this behavior becoming a routine.
In autism, empathizing with people is about similarities. Non-autistic people perceive this as comparing. It’s not comparing, unless your similarity is nothing like the autistic person’s experience.
3. Create your own social boundaries
You’re a parent, not a martyr. You’re allowed to have boundaries. Children learn from the people around them, so exemplify the importance of boundaries by practicing them yourself.
Here are a few boundaries to quiet your autism spectrum child who never stops talking:
Give them time to talk.
It’s not counterproductive to allow your child with autism the freedom to talk about anything and everything.
Work into their routine a time for them to info-dump about anything — 5-10 minutes everyday is a good starting point. Engaging in the conversation will stimulate their mind. Processing verbal information requires a lot of energy.
Parallel play, with you or other children
An autism stereotype is that autistic people are loners. The actual problem is that we enjoy our time alone, but still want company.
Talking excessively may fill the void caused by wanting to be around people. Autism may overcompensate this loneliness by causing your autistic child to fill every ounce of silence with their voice. The logic is that they will be alone if they stop talking, because you won’t have any reason to stay near them.
Enter parallel play. Put simply, two people in a room engage in their own activities. They may occasionally talk to each other, but they’re primarily focused on their own activities.
Examples of what this could look like:
- You are watching TV while your child sorts their toys in the same room.
- You are cleaning the bathroom while your child draws in a notebook.
- A non-autistic child is playing with trucks while your autistic child is dancing in the same room.
Autistic and similarly neurodivergent adults are also known to do this. It looks like:
- One person working on laptop, another sorting books.
- A person watching TV, another working logic puzzles.
- Someone cooking in the kitchen, another cleaning out the fridge.
Parallel play can also look like two autistic adults living in the same house, but each doing their own thing in separate corners. They know the other person is there if they want to socialize.
Create some distance.
If your child with autism is talking to themself and you need a break, give them the space to do that. Autistic people talk to themselves. It’s not harmful. Those conversations aren’t meant for you, either.
They may not even notice it unless you say something, either.
Create distance between you, so they can continue talking to themselves.
How Do I Keep My Autistic Child From Talking Back?
You don’t. Back talk is a social construct that stems from the idea that children should be compliant and accept what they’re told at face value. The autistic brain is not going comprehend this construct.
Back talk is defined as “rude or cheeky remarks towards someone with authority”. In a funeral context, autistic people may laugh or make a joke to cope with trauma. Talking back is communication, not bad behavior.
Boundaries teach us that we are not responsible for other people’s feelings. Not understanding this is a problem with double empathy and requires personal work from you as a parent. Check your anger and manage your own feelings.
Autistic people do not respond well to authoritarian personalities. Non-autistic people are compliant by default. You cannot expect an autistic child to be compliant just because you said so. Treat your child like the individual they are.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Autism and Talking Too Much
With these strategies, you can learn to set personal boundaries, teach social skills, and enjoy conversations with your autistic child as the amazing and unique individual they are.
What are your thoughts about autism and talking? Share in the comments below.