asking questions she knows the answers to | Autism PDD


Children on the spectrum like scripts. I'm not sure why. I think it's the predictability of them that they like. It's like a dance: she asks a question, you give an answer, she asks a question, you give an answer--NOTE even your "you don't have to ask that" can turn into part of the script. In fact, if you don't follow the script, she might even get annoyed and say "No, I asked you this question." My DS does that a lot. I have found that a lot of our arguing is not really about an argument or lack of understanding, but a script that DS wants to hear. I try now to figure out when we are doing this "dance" and switch it around. Even so, my children get annoyed when I don't fill their pauses with predictable replies. I'd just try to mix up the script:

ARe there tomatoes on my sandwich?
No, I see grapes on your sandwich.
No you don't daddy.
What are those?
These are tomatoes.
Thanks for telling me.
Are there tomatoes on my sandwich?
Now we're going to talk about what you did at school.
Are there tomatoes on my sandwich?
Did you have a snack at school?

etc. etc. I try to introduce when it's my turn to talk about something or I'll say: No, we're not talking about that right now--just see if you can work in another variation so that a) it doesn't drive you crazy and b) she actually expands the conversation in the process and practices on something other than the script part...


Abbie has this annoying (sorry!) habit of making constant, persistant observations about things going on around her, and verbalizing these observations in the form of a question.  Of course, she already knows the answers to these questions, but she asks them anyways :).  She understands how to re-phrase the question into a statement, so lately, we've been addressing these questions by saying, "you don't need to ask that", or "you know the answer, Abbie", and she'll go ahead an rephrase the question:

Abbie:  "Daddy, are there tomatoes on my sandwich?"

Me:  "You don't have to ask that."

Abbie:  "Daddy, there are tomatoes on my sandwich!"

Me:  "That's right - there are tomatoes on your sandwich."

Abbie:  "Are the tomatoes red and squishy"

Me:  "Abbie, you know the anwer"


Sound familiar to anyone?

First of all, is this something that she'll likely outgrow?  Is it the right approach to have her rephrase these observational questions as statements?  I'm hoping that the extra step will eventually grow tiresome to her and she'll eliminate the rhetorical question and just make the statement...

Second, any idea why she does this?  Her sister really doesn't do this as often.


You know you are a mom to a kiddo on the spectrum when you read Fred's thoughtful post and all you can think of is:  "WOW, Abbie actually eats tomatoes!  Awesome!"

My son does this ALL the time.  I hear myself saying, "Jamie, I won't answer questions you know the answers to...what's the answer?"  The truth is, I know this is a form of verbal stim.  He does it most when he's tired or stressed or is expecting the next dose of meds.  Also, when I'm a captive audience -- Like in the car. I HATE IT!The kids I know who do this all do it because they are stressed or anxious in some way (like the schedule has changed), I agree with the theory that it is a script to provide comfort and predictability.

I get a question all the time ....

"Mommy, are you a robot?"  I get asked that at least 4 times a day.  Of course, it all goes back to Spongebob ...


YES, but my eldest daughter whom is NT (well sometimes we really wonder)

She does this ALL the time, and also tells the same stories over and over and over and over,  Even though I tell her every time "you already told me a hundred times"
Oh, I say a lot of "you tell me"

OHHHH MY GOSH......I thought I was the ONLY parent who suffered what I call the "Qlight zone"!!!!!! 

Tweeker has been doing this for about 7 years now!!!! (since he was about 4 years old).

Usually when the "questions" begin I will respond with HMMMM???? What do you think the answer to that is Tweek? and he'll tell me what the answer is, but then he'll ask ANOTHER ONE 

Nowwhat.....what a great suggestion!!!!!  I'll have to try your strategy...

Stay tuned for the results.

Thank you!


My 8 year old son's repetitive questions are of the type "What would Kim Possible do if...?"  (he also asks about other cartoon characters like Scooby Doo and Lego Bionicle).  I play along, but sometimes it drives me crazy.  Luckily, he has started to accept when I say I've had enough, and he finds another activity to do.

Today I googled on "repetitive questions" and "autism" and found some interesting stuff that I'd like to share with you.  I thought the most interesting strategies came from the Son-Rise program.  They call repetitive questions "verbal isms", and they recommend reacting to the child with enthusiasm.  It's basically what I've been doing because it felt right for me.  It might sound like reinforcing a bothersome behavior, but Son Rise feels that you're reinforcing communication.

The impression I got from Son Rise is that your daughter deserves praise for initiating a conversation about her lunch, even though she does so in an awkward and repetitive way because of the way autism affects her social and language skills.

Son Rise places repetitive questions in the area of challenge, "Child possesses a large vocabulary or speaks in sentences, but lacks the ability to use language successfully in social situations." 

Their basic strategies are (quote):

- Be willing to discuss your child's topic of interest (Thomas the Tank Engine; shopping malls; repetitive questions such as, "What time is dinner?") with enthusiasm. Be a model. If we want our children to discuss our areas of interest, we want to first be willing to discuss theirs. After we have followed their area of interest, we can then begin to gently guide the conversation in different directions.

- Rather than continually correct your child or show him/her how is off point is redundant, celebrate the fact that your child is communicating with you. Let your child know how much you enjoy hearing him/her speak and share.

Source: d/free_practical_strategies_to_apply_now.php

And here is how real people put those Son-Rise strategies in action: ic.cgi?forum=32&topic=40

I liked the way these people used humor and make-believe.  In a situation like yours, they might have joked that your daughter had grapes on her sandwich (like Nowwhat suggested already) or said "yes, I put sliced tomatoes on your sandwich.  Let's pretend we're slicing tomatoes."

Here's a more mainstream article on repetitive questions.  It includes a list of why they might occur, from "fascination with predictable answers" to "difficulties knowing how to initiate and maintain a conversation" (the author admits it's not easy to tell when it's a stim and when it's an attempt at communication).  It also includes a list of long- and short-term strategies. tml

The following link places repetitive questions in the context of Communication Skills:  Expressive, and lists some strategies for supporting general growth in this area.

Good luck everyone!

fred, it is similar to my boy's behavior... he likes to ask: 'what is this?' for letters and numbers, he knows the answer but insist to be answered... not like 'super' or 'bravo', he insist that you mention right letter ('A' for example)

he asked a lot 'where is mummy or where is daddy' while we are in same room as he (4-5 times in 10 minutes), but lately he rarely asks such questions...

psyhologist told me that it shows his anxiety, and that we need to answer every time he asks and that it will dissapear by the time.... and it is true, those 'stupid' questions are almost gone...

in book 'Asperger Syndrome and Dificult Moments' Brenda Smith Myles says that emotional maturity of AS people is around 2/3 of NT peer person and I think those questioning could have connection with it....

ive3, that's interesting what the psychologist said about it showing anxiety.  When my son was 2, he had a phase of repeating the phrase "Naughty to fight" -- when he started nursery school, a social situation which was no doubt beyond his capacity to handle.

Then at age 3, he had a phase of repeating "Dangerous in the road" because we saw a cat playing in the road. 

Both these situations were probably anxiety-provoking for him, but I didn't recognize it at the time.  We just thought he was quirky (he didn't get a diagnosis till age 7).

Thanks again.

Damian is the king of that I swear but he gets very angry when he doesnt hear the answer he wants 100 times, I was told to keep trying to throw different language skills in anywhere I can.Anthony does this too.  Although, it has been decreasing since he started the "why" stage which we discussed in a previous post.  I wonder if there is something to that - maybe it's a step forward.  It sure doesn't stop it from being annoying

It reminds me of an old expression from India.  I don't remember the wording exactly, but the gist of it is, "if it hurts to go barefoot, you can either cover the world with leather, or you can put on sandals."  My son actually does neither -- he is more the type to stand there and curse the world.  In fact, he's had phases of raging at the bright sun which didn't set and rise at his bidding.  Talk about a lost cause...


re: first post.


Story of my life.

Fred, I hate to break this to you, but girls never stop talking LOL!!!  Nathaniel asks the same sets of questions sometimes 20-30 times a day. His teachers say he does it at school, too. I think it's a comfort to him to, so I almost always answer his questions, but sometimes I try to mix it up a little. I ask the question back to him, or I give him the wrong answer in hopes that an actual conversation comes of it. It depends on what he's asking the question for, whether or not he'll participate. If he's asking the question out of a familiarity then he'll insist that I answer his question appropriately. If he's asking the questions, because he'd like to communicate, but just can't figure out how to have a spontaneous conversation then he'll let me expand on his question. Like for example, one of his fav ones is to ask where relatives live. Just a few minutes ago he asked "where does grandma live?" for the 9th time today. I said " Timbuktu" He then asked where a timbuktu is, I was able to tell him Africa where there are giraffes, and he asked if there were zebras there too. He was looking for a conversation, and I was able to somewhat carry one on with him. He just didn't know how to start one himself. It does get tiring answering the same questions all day everyday, but I don't feel right telling him to stop. The way I see it is that there are gonna be enough people in this world that don't understand him, and tell him to be quiet. I want him to feel accepted, and be who he is with me. Yep, we're in this club, too. I usually distract him by making a silly joke, "No
those aren't tomatoes, they are fuzzy slippers..."
My dev ped (who has 3 sons on the spectrum) gave me the idea to start
saying mildly silly things to Jasper all the time, to help him get used to the
unexpected. At first, it made him upset and I had to be REALLY mild and
gentle. But, now I can tell him I made fried sticks with a mud shake for
dinner and he laughs. Bonus: he usually scans my face thoroughly to see if
I'm joking, and looks for a smile on my face, so maybe it's helping him with
reading facial expressions as well. My experience with those types of questions is the same as Karolysgirl. It seems to be a major anxiety issue (the 16 year old I work with continually asks questions like "Can I take my wallet out of my pocket?" "Can I put it in this pocket?" "Can I smell it?" (referring to food).)

We constantly redirect him to make it into a statement, or just ignore the question. If it becomes an obsessively asked question, we'll ask him very specifically "What do you want me to say?" and once he answers, the question is usually dropped by that point.

Good Luck,

My son does this as well. He isn't stressed when he does this it's more of an OCD~on a topic thing. I would just tell him ok enough with that question but his school had a great approach that seemed to work. They tell him he can ask 2 questions. After the 2 questions he can only ask what is pertaining to the lesson. Believe me he thinks really careful now about his 2 questions. If he doesn't follow the rules he loses a point (after being warned) from his sheet.

I gotta be honest I really thought my son was the only one! It's GREAT to know I'm not alone

Nicholas (16) will do this on and off. He will make silly remarks, or state the bleeding obvious when we are watching tv. In his case, he hasn't learnt to read all the social cues yet, misreading our frustration as something funny and will keep on until we say something.

Does not go on as often as it used too, but it does come up - probably no more than NT kids anyway.


You know you are a mom to a kiddo on the spectrum when you read Fred's thoughtful post and all you can think of is:  "WOW, Abbie actually eats tomatoes!  Awesome!"



Oh I feel the pain! My son does this all the time! I know the frustration. When I am in a good mood I usually either answer the question or ask him if I already answered the question. If I am in a bad mood I tell him I already answered the question and tell him I am tired of answering(then I usually feel bad cause he gets angry with himself). I really think it is a processing issue for Shawn. I think he stored the answer in a section of his brain that he forgot to access before asking the question again. If I am calm and ask him if I already answered he takes a min and finds the answer himself. You can almost see the wheels turning!!

At school, for the mainstreamed science class, he gets two note cards to use for questions. Those two cards are how many questions he is allowed to ask. If he has cards at the end of the class he is rewarded. Otherwise he can be a bit disruptive.

shewinders39152.447025463*sigh*  Yes. Blherc.  My ASD child doesn't talk yet.  My asperger's kid does this a lot BUT, it 's their father who is really bad about the verbal stims.  He asks the same questions, makes the exact same comments, has to have the exact same arguments and I didn't even know, for years, that he may be on the spectrum.  He is, that is clear, and a lot of our marital problems stem from this.  Well, from me getting irritated from the same questions, same arguments and so on.  Lately, he repeats a million times a day that his mother helps his "sorry ass" (financially) and since we were married, he always said and repeated that his family thinks we are white trash and won't last a year.  Who knows if they think it, who cares...but it was things he said and repeated over and over and over and over that killed us. 

His father, I noticed, also tells the same stories over and over, asks the same questions and on and on.

yep! Malachi often asks me something that he already knows..
I think part of it is that he is trying to engage in conversation, and he just isn't sure how to do that, but asking a question  will get me to talk to him, so he uses that.
I also use the " you tell me" response, and if he doesn't tell me right away I try another way to sneak it out of him by rewording it. Sometimes a slight distraction of asking him something else quick will divert his attention and then if I went back and said " and what is on your sandwich" he might then tell me.
It seems like more often than not Malachi is just trying to talk to us, and he uses questions to do it.  i didnt know this had a name and other parents deal with it--i am a single dad who gets PDD daughter on Fri thru Sunday--

from the moment she comes she wants to know "what time mom pick me up" i've reinforced sunday at 6pm by now, however it continues all weekend-and i allow her to answer her own questions.

shannon 16 PDD.NOS ask from the time i have my kids on my scheduled visitation. fri 6 till sunday 6 until she goes to mothers

shann--"what time mommy pick me up"

dad-"sunday 6 oclock

shann--"what time shannon go home"

dad-"sunday what time?"

shann- "6oclock"

shann--"what time mom pick me up"

dad-"what time?"

shann- "sunday 6oclock"
there now

micki - I thought fred was back too... I MISS him! Sigh.

Anyway, one poster had the suggestion from their dev ped to say "I don't know." This did NOT work for my ds at all. All kids are different! What did end up working was turning the question back on him - which I know others have had success with. For instance:

Ds: What is that?

Me: What do YOU think it is?

Ds: A flower.

Me. You're right, it is a flower.

If he continued, I would tell him that I knew he knew the answer and that he could ask that question one last time and then we were done. Usually, him answering the question himself ended it - but not always. Prior to me figuring this out, he would ask the same question over and over until I was batty!

It seemed to reassure him to hear it over and over - but it also seemed that he just wanted to know that he had the right answer - so once he gave it to me, he was fine.

I have to say that I do not miss that phase one little bit. I thought I was going to go insane. My dh would come home from work and tell me I looked stressed - which was a DEFINITE understatement!

Add me to the Fred fan club ... and I WOULD like to know how Abigail and Evie are doing!

Just wait till the questions veer into the, er, wilder realms:

"Can God get me into a movie?"


"Because once you are in a movie, you don't ever die."


"Well nobody in High School Movie dies."

Can you tell DEATH is  the perserverative topic this month?

Anyone still in touch with Fred? I too wonder how they are doing.I thought Fred (original poster) was back.Unfortunatly just an old post.
Hope things are going well for him.
My ds went through a phase at age 5 where he said 'what's that' literally
200 times a day, at least. It went on for about a year and then got less.
but he still asks stuff he knows the answer to. My dd does it for stuff she
is mulling over, like she keeps asking my mom how she felt said when her
mom died. She needed to her the story of my grandma's death over and
over again. I remember needing to her the same story over and over as a
kid and I still love reareading a few books that I know by heart or hearing
the same song on repeat. I find it very soothing and reassuring. I am not
sure if it is in the realm of typical or maybe an asd shadow trait that runs
in my family. But since I know how reassuring a known answer can feel I
don't mind indulging my kids repeat questions.My middle child did this all the time.  The developmental ped who did his evaluation told me to just start saying, "I don't know," when he is asking a question I know he knows the answer to.  Doing that was a huge change.  Within a few weeks of starting that we resolved this issue.  I guess I was reinforcing him every time I gave him the answer before.  I just had to change it up to break the cycle. [QUOTE=kdchaos]My middle child did this all the time.  The developmental ped who did his evaluation told me to just start saying, "I don't know," when he is asking a question I know he knows the answer to.  Doing that was a huge change.  Within a few weeks of starting that we resolved this issue.  I guess I was reinforcing him every time I gave him the answer before.  I just had to change it up to break the cycle. [/QUOTE]interesting...

i hope with new psychiatrist he can mix up her meds to give her some relief so she can stop the constant cursing...she is going thru a huge adjustment with her moms marriage--what is odd however, is that they lived together for a year and she wasnt this bad..

i can handle the repetiveness of asking the same question, but the cursing is a huge stressor, and the only thing i can do is put in my ear plugs
My DS has been doing this since about 15 mths old.  He will ask "What's that?", no kidding hundreds of times a day.  This is all he'll say besides "Uh Oh, it's broke" which can be anywhere to a few times a day to hundreds of times with anything that's out of place (ie a crack in the ground, crooked sign, etc).  I PRAY that this is not a sign of my future.  [QUOTE=Shandalyn1]My DS has been doing this since about 15 mths old.  He will ask "What's that?", no kidding hundreds of times a day.  This is all he'll say besides "Uh Oh, it's broke" which can be anywhere to a few times a day to hundreds of times with anything that's out of place (ie a crack in the ground, crooked sign, etc).  I PRAY that this is not a sign of my future.  [/QUOTE]all kids are different and i would think his behavior would constantly change..hopefully for the beter for all of u

OMG for a minute  I thought FRED was back, wish I knew how the girls are doing ...  woops that is almost identica lto my post above LOL!

... just want to say, My girl is EIGHT and STILL persists with this habit ...

LOL at Fred Fan club!  Me too!

My son repeats questions or asks awkward questions to answer.  Saying "I don't know" only makes him rephrase his question!!! 

example of a difficult question to answer:  "why is this called a bun?"  I answer "I don't know why; it is just called that" 

Who are all the people in this photo? 

Me: I only see you and crowd of people

No! Who are all those people BEHIND ME!!!

Me:  I really don't know who they are, they were just behind you when I took the picture.

NO MOM, I mean who are THEEEESE people...pointing to the crowd of people...

This can go on for 4-5 times.




valley -- those questions are SO familiar.  Ours are most frequently the meaning of words ... or else something from one of the movies she has memorized!

 wow i really did miss him didn't know why his posts stop. he sure did have some great topics and great info to share , my old fave topic was about omega 3.

 hope all is well with him and hope he visits soon!

 Ps. while on the topicwhat about kelly for jesus MIA too!


I thought fred was back too. I lost touch with him and I am sad that he left. I do wonder about the girls and hope they are well. I know that kristy recently posted something about his separation becoming permanent in relation to another post - because of his obsession with the girls and their therapies.

I hope that some of those suggestions help some of you with your kids. Mine grew out of that stage rather quickly (although at the time it felt like EONS but it was in reality only about 6 months I think). I hope the same for the rest of yours!

Hi! im new here. This is the first thread that I read
into and all I can say is I've learned a lot! Im a SPED
teacher handling a cute little girl who repeats the
question over and over again. I can't wait to try out
all your suggestions!