Monday, January 19, 2015

Autism diaries: yet another Internet page on autism and repetitive questions

“If I tell the waiter I’m feeling hot, what do you think he will do?”

I can’t tell you many times J, with absolutely no idea how creepy he sounds, has told waiters that he’s “feeling hot” in order to get restaurant staff to turn fans on fast. Or how many times he’s asked me, “If I tell the waiter I’m feeling hot, what do you think he will do?”

Every so often I get sick of this question. So sick, at times, that I depart from the usual “autism mom” ideals. The last time this happened I found myself saying:

“Do you know why you like to ask the same question over and over again?”

No response.

“It’s because you’re autistic,” I explain, opening up my laptop. “Let’s see what happens when we google autism and repetitive questions.”

I type in “autism repe” and the rest is automatically filled in for me. I show him the 108,000 results. At the very top is this from the Indiana Resource Center for Autism:

Family members and professionals are often puzzled about what to do when an individual begins to ask repetitive questions. Like most things that involve individuals across the autism spectrum, the answer is not simple and clear cut. Instead, it is dependent on the circumstances surrounding the usage of the repetitive questions.
After reading this out loud to him, I have him look at the list that follows:
Possible Functions or Reasons for Repetitive Questioning:  
Inability or difficulty adequately communicating ideas via oral speech.
Difficulty knowing how to initiate or maintain a conversation.
Lack of other strategies for gaining attention in a positive way.
Need for information.
Need for reassurance.
Need to escape a situation that is boring or unpleasant.
Need to avoid transitioning to a new situation.
Desire to be social.
Need to be in control of the situation and/or attempt to keep the social interaction within his/her level of understanding.
Fascination with predictable answers.
Desire to demonstrate knowledge or competency by content of questions.
A motor planning problem which makes novel utterances more difficult to produce in affective situation.
“Which of these reasons do you have?” I ask him.

A gimme: “Fascination with predictable answers,” he says right away.

“But why are you fascinated with predictable answers?”

Silence. This question, not a gimme, is perhaps one for me to ask repetitively.

Some of the 108,000 pages are discussion boards. These are dominated by comments like: “Autism and why all the repetitive questions? I am going crazy!” and “My son is driving me crazy with all his repetitive questions!” J chuckles.

Whoops... Is this giving him a huge new incentive to keep asking me about “I’m feeling hot”? And to start asking me, repetitively, whether his questions are driving me crazy?

As it turns out, not at all. Not once has he uttered this hypothetical new question. Could it be that our Internet research made him ever so slightly uncomfortable? If so, I’m guessing that’s all for the good. And so, perhaps, is repetitive Internet research.

After all, there are another 107,995 pages, or so, to go.

1 comment:

Crimson Wife said...

My child with autism asks repetitive questions because of the two below reasons:

(1) Difficulty verbally expressing her needs (she'll ask the same unclear question repetitively instead of clarifying what specifically she wants)
(2) She doesn't like the answer she's been given and thinks that if she keeps asking, eventually she'll get the answer she wants.