Enter Autism ( into the picture)… and questions can work abit differently. Children with ASD can ask questions over and over again because of anxiety over a future event. With my oldest son, his use of questions was for a purpose related to anxiety, but more complex. He asked me questions all day because he wanted to feel competent that he knew where the conversation was going…in other words, he removed all uncertainty in our conversation so that he could feel safe when he talked to me. He asked me questions that he knew the answer too. The interaction went something like this… He would ask me a question, then I would try and answer him and if I did not answer him the exact way he was thinking I would, he would then answer the question after I answered the question. This of course meant that he knew the answer to the question before he asked me. Needless to say, in no short time this drove me insane as I answered questions all day only to realize he already knew the answer.
I remember saying to his therapists ( This started around 6 years old )….MAKE HIM STOP! Lol and we tried many different behavioral strategies. It was not until he was around 9 that developmentally he was able to feel safe in the uncertainty of a *open ended conversation*. We had been doing RDI with him for over a year at this point to help him get there.
A strategy that worked for us… I would ask him, Oh you know the answer to this! Then I would say, so I love that you talk to me…anything you say ( decreases anxiety) and it sounds like you are trying to tell me something …Here is how you tell me something without asking a question ( and still knowing that the outcome is the same) Then I told him how to reword the question into a *Mom, quess what* statement… Meaning to open it up like, quess what ( and then tell me instead of ask me). This helped him to then be ok with my *answer* too, as he started to enjoy the back and forth and be resilient in not having to know the answer. There are many different strategies hooked into this, this is just the beginning one. However, within my own sons RDI program, I recognized at the same time we really needed to address this at its core too. He was asking me questions because he so wanted to be successful with me in an interaction…and for him, asking the question and me answering was SUCCESS. So who would not want to repeat success…right??? We do all the time…when we go out with a friend, etc and we have a great time, one of the first things we say is..lets do that again! We know though that it’s the relationship that we want to *do* again, not the exact events and actions of the time spent.
If your child is asking questions that he knows the answer too, try the strategy above. In addition, here are a few beginning tips to work on a few of the core deficits of Autism- dynamic analysis, experience communication, and Episodic memory. Addressing competence and resilience from the ground up is crucial to help your child understand thoroughly the WHY of communcation.
Working on Dynamic Analysis- Our kids need help knowing the important part of the interaction. Instead of paying attention to the *answer*, focus more on the relationship ( I love when we talk to each other or I love your smile!) Your child hears your thoughts that you are paying attention to more than just their question. At first there may be some anxiety over you not answering them right away, but you are giving them the opportunity to process your perspective ( you have their attention as they wait for what they *want* to hear). You can follow this up with commenting to them a great way to tell *Mom* something is hey Mom…_____________,
Working on Experience sharing communication- When your child asks you a question that they know the answer too, use non verbals to answer them and then pair the non verbal communication with a strategic pace of any comment you make ( for Dynamic analysis). Strategic pace is pausing at the moment that is important …to highlight and say to your child…here…this is important to pay attention too!
Working on Episodic memory- look for opportunities when helping your child feel secure in his communication to reflect on past experiences of the subject that he is asking about. Recalling past events, reviewing success and reminiscing about joint shared experiences will help your child’s motivation to want to continue to build a conversation with you, even when he is unsure of the outcome ( an open ended conversation). This is a great time to talk about your emotions and /or your childs emotions as a reflective process. This helps your child see that communication is a reflective process built on experiences, and is truly a back and forth interaction where the uncertainty is an interesting aspect of a conversation and not something to produce anxiety.
For more on RDI www.whatisrdi.blogspot.com