Not So Private Speech

Private Speech,

Also known as “self talk”, is an activity I and many autistics engage in.

Until recently, when I began attending Autistry Studios, I really had no idea I even did it. Well, I had an idea, but I did not realize how much I did it, or that it is common amongst autistics.

I didn’t even notice others doing it much until I overheard one guy being advised he would have to go in another room if he wanted to talk to himself.

What? This is an “issue”, I asked myself – probably out loud –  and then asked Sara about.

Turns out, self talk can be an issue, particularly in public, as other people see it as, at best, strange, and, at worst, a symptom of schizophrenia.

I remember mental health “professionals” – you can see how highly I regard that profession – accusing me of hearing voices because of the talking. Turns out, this is a common misconception with autistics.

At Autistry yesterday, there were about four of us in the computer room, all talking, but not to each other. This verbalization is sometimes soft, almost inaudible, but, at least in our group, can get pretty loud and animated. Needless to say, this can be extremely distracting to others, even other autistics!

In fact, when J. burst out with a loud exclamation, I was so startled I yelled, “NO!! Too loud!”

This got us both reprimanded, and I was informed I was myself being pretty loud, even before J.’s outburst, and to go “take a break”.

When I got home, I read this article on self talk in Down Syndrome, and found it very pertinent to my own situation.

Particularly salient was the breakdown of reasons and possible others addressed in this talk; imaginary friends and famous people are high in the ranking. I do not address imaginary friends or famous people – but exactly who or what do  I address?

I then realized, I don’t really know what my private speech related to, so, using a journaling app I downloaded for Android called Memoires, I recorded myself from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

The results were startling: I talked out loud to nobody in particular 3 times in 15 minutes on average. It was difficult to actually keep track of!

Most of it related to my environment, and what I saw or felt: “It’s warm out here”, “The sun feels good”, that kind of thing. Some was echolalia: “Broccoli!” After hearing another diner say broccoli.

When I thought I had misplaced my key, the incidence and intensity increased, and when I felt self – conscious about being recorded, my mindfulness of this circumstance toned it down.

This suggests some sort of conscious recording could help me temper this habit, which has thus far proven resistant to modification, and which can be quite embarrassing in public – where, incidentally, it is more frequent, as I touch and identify nearly everything I pass, say in the Safeway.

As a final note: I utter gibberish, such as “buddabuddabooo” and beedibee, as well. It is curious most of this begins with a “B” sound.

A work in progress, I see- – or hear – I have a long way to go…



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