Fact sheet on repetitive questioning, a communication issue with Autism,  the most common pervasive developmental disorder


Children with neurotypical development go through stages where they are full of seemingly endless questions. The same often happens for children with autism or Asperger's syndrome, but the same questions may get asked over and over again, which can be frustrating for parents and others they interact with. While repetitive questioning can occur in adults with autism, this fact sheet will focus on strategies for repetitive questioning in children.


The reasons for repetitive questions can vary, and thus the way we respond needs to vary as well. There can be a different reason for the same question as emotions, environments and other variables change. As with any behavior, it helps if the parent plays 'behavior detective' and looks for what has prompted the repetitive questioning and respond to the underlying cause.


Why someone may be asking the same question repeatedly

Children on the autism spectrum may engage in repetitive behaviors or echolalia, and repetitive questioning may have the same appeal, with the routine of the same question getting the same answers each time.


The child may have trouble expressing something else they want to ask and substitute a familiar question instead. In a similar vein, there may be a desire to communicate but the child may not know yet how to start or maintain conversations.


Emotionally, the child could be scared, upset or seeking reassurance in a 'safe' activity. It could also be a way of demonstrating their knowledge as you confirm what they already know.


Short-Term interventions

The strategies you use will depend on what you think is motivating the repetitive questioning. A simple strategy could be to write the answer on a piece of paper and simply refer to the paper each time the question is asked again, assuming there is no underlying cause that should be addressed.


If there has been a speech therapist involved, you may need to prompt the individual to remember the chosen strategies in dealing with repetitive questioning that have been practiced with the speech therapist.


Set a limit on the number of repetitive questions that can be asked. Outline the 'rules' for your child and explain their options. Let your child know that they can choose another topic in which case you can keep talking with them. It may help to offer a few choices of topic. A social story could be written to show the child how people will react if a question is asked too often.


If you child could be trying to say something else, you could revert to assistive technology such as a story board to help them change to the appropriate topic. Redirecting to another topic is important as the positive aspects of social interaction are maintained. Your child should not feel punished for their attempts to interact with you.

If your child could be demonstrating his or her knowledge, reverse the question to see if they can answer it.


If the repetitive questioning is caused by stress or anxiety, see if the underlying issue can be addressed. There could be changes to their daily routine that are upsetting, or a new change coming up. Consider the use of social stories to adapt to new activities.


long-Term interventions

As with the short-term strategies, you use of long-term strategies will depend on what you think is motivating the repetitive questioning.


Introduce assistive technologies for communication such as communication boards which can redirect the child to express what they are trying to communicate.

Work with a speech therapist to introduce scripted formats to develop conversational skills which can be practiced for different situations and environments. Make a topic notebook that can list a range of things your child can speak to other people about.


Reduce stress and anxiety by creating stable routines and wall charts so your child knows what will happen each day of each week. Let your child tick off activities as they occur. Plan well ahead to introduce your child to new activities or environments by introducing them to the wall chart.


If your child is demonstrating their knowledge by repetitive questioning, encourage them to show this more appropriately. For example, a child who is fascinated by butterflies can start a book about butterflies.


Click to shut this Autism fact sheet on repetitive questioning

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See the Communication skills page for more information on communication issues.
This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation.

Children with Autism or Asperger's syndrome are like all kids and will go through a phase of asking endless questions, but the same questions may get asked over and over again, which can be frustrating for parents and others they interact with.