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August 9, 2011 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Remember Brick, from Malcolm in the Middle? He used to do this thing where he'd say something, and then whisper it again to himself. My kid does this. What does it mean?

My younger daughter, six, does this. Though usually whole sentences, not just a word. She's a pretty bright kid, but I'm probably not objective, very creative, and very excitable. For maybe the last four months she's been doing this. One friend mentioned ADD and I think that's a bit rash. But I can't quite figure out why she might be doing it. If you ask her, she denies she does it.

She's a great kid but does have focus issues. Is this meaningless, or does it have any significance. Anyone else ever observed this?
posted by 0BloodyHell to Human Relations (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why do children repeat what they have said in a whisper? The question even mentions the same tv show!
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:03 PM on August 9, 2011


According to my brother, I used to do this when I was a kid. Besides being really shy, there was nothing "wrong" with me.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:03 PM on August 9, 2011


Previously.
posted by supercres at 6:04 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know that a friend of mine has Asperger's and he mutters and whispers to himself. I do so as well, but only when no one is directly talking to me. Also Brick is from the show "The Middle". Not "Malcolm in the Middle."
posted by Peregrin5 at 6:06 PM on August 9, 2011


FYI, the show is called "The Middle". Malcolm in the Middle was a different show (still awesome) from the late 90's IIRC.
posted by pearlybob at 6:07 PM on August 9, 2011


I'd like to add, that in my case, I feel an incredible urge to repeat words that I might be speaking in a conversation but I do my darndest to suppress it. When I do it in a non-conversational context, I don't feel the need to refrain from repeating them. I don't think there's anything wrong with me or kids with similar ticks. They're just that. Ticks. I used to have to make short "uh" sounds for a few moments after talking when I was younger. I think this is probably a development on that.
posted by Peregrin5 at 6:09 PM on August 9, 2011


It could be a verbal tic known as palilalia. The Wikipedia article links it with stuff like Tourette's and autism but don't let that frighten you. There is such a thing as a "transient tic disorder" in which a kid will develop a motor or vocal tic for no particular reason and eventually outgrow it.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:10 PM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


She is just probably trying to focus/imprint things in her mind. I have been known to do it when I get nervous/excited - and I am not six.
posted by mleigh at 6:13 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh! I used to do this a bunch when I was little, and I still do occasionally. I did it mainly when I really liked the sound of the words I was saying, or when I wanted to try out a different inflection.
posted by estlin at 6:15 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I work with kids who do this; it sounds like palilalia, which is the repetition of what a person just said (echolalia is the nonfunctional repetition of what you just heard).

If you have concerns, I would consider getting a speech and language evaluation to get a clear sense of what's going on. It could be nothing but if you're concerned, a good eval can help set your mind at ease.
posted by kinetic at 6:15 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It might be a compulsion or tic, but it's not something I would worry about based on what we can tell you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:16 PM on August 9, 2011


My ex-husband does this. He's a very intelligent and extremely creative man who tries hard to be decent. (He's "ex" because he didn't really want to be married or have a family; unfortunately he realized this after we had two kids.) No suggestion of ADD as a kid or an adult. I don't think he's aware of doing it, it's more like a tic, which people politely ignore. It happens more frequently when he's tired or stressed.

Just my opinion here: I don't actually think a six year old can have "focus issues" unless there is real neurological trouble -- and believe me, you'd know it. Absolutely can't sit still ever for anything, can't finish a sentence, easily frustrated, can't control aggressive behavior. I don't know what you see as a "focus issue," but at six the world is exploding around you: more and more things you understand and can do and want to learn how to do and more expectations from adults and how do you really start to be friends with other kids -- she's on a permanent roller coaster ride. Things calm down. Enjoy the excitement now.
posted by kestralwing at 6:16 PM on August 9, 2011


And by a compulsion I mean as a symptom of OCD, but it's impossible to diagnose that just based on one thing.

I personally have never heard of this being a defining feature of ADD at all. My personal experience of ADHD as a child was that I would be distracted or thinking of something else before I'd get the chance to repeat the sentence--!
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:18 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nthing palilalia. It can be associated with various developmental/neurological conditions, but it also can simply be a quirk in an otherwise typically developing child. If you have other concerns, by all means seek out an evaluation from a developmental pediatrician or other provider who can sort out all of the very different diagnoses this might or might not be. He or she can refer you to a specialist if needed. If you don't have other concerns about development, it's probably not a big deal.
posted by goggie at 6:24 PM on August 9, 2011


I did this as a teen. I grew out of it.

Most people would say that I'm fine now. Most people.
posted by math at 6:30 PM on August 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh! I used to do this a bunch when I was little, and I still do occasionally. I did it mainly when I really liked the sound of the words I was saying, or when I wanted to try out a different inflection.

This exactly. I never really questioned why I do this. I just thought it was an annoying habit I had. For what it's worth, I'm a functional adult with no symptoms of Tourette's or Asperger's.

I have a degree in creative writing. I really love the sound of words and phrases. If something catches my ear, so to speak, I might repeat it and might even let it rattle around in my head for days. The only person who ever made fun of me or even questioned why I do this is my older sister when we were kids. It's never bothered my life in the slightest.
posted by alittlecloser at 6:35 PM on August 9, 2011


I did that as a kid and I still do from time to time. Not sure what it means, but I think I am fairly normal.
posted by brownrd at 6:37 PM on August 9, 2011


I used to do this when I was little, I wasn't even aware of it at the time until my parents brought it to my attention because they were concerned. I grew out of it.
posted by Jubey at 6:50 PM on August 9, 2011


Nth-ing that this is basically normal. I've done this all my life, for me it's basically 'practicing' - testing out different inflections, different ways of phrasing things, hearing again how that sounded, etc. One of my friends teased me about it once or twice in high school because I would do it during a conversation, nowadays I mostly notice myself doing it after walking away from an exchange or when I'm really distracted - that is, thinking about the subject but not about the act of speaking.
posted by Lady Li at 7:35 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I did this when I was around ten. I don't remember it being a compulsion, it was just extremely satisfying somehow.

Then my grandfather started doing it too, to annoy me into stopping. Oh my god was that annoying.
posted by beandip at 8:18 PM on August 9, 2011


Why do children repeat what they have said in a whisper? The question even mentions the same tv show!

...and the answer was appalling.

"Why does my child say something out loud, then repeat it in a whisper?"
"They're not confident..."
"No, see, they said it out loud first..."
"...or they don't want to make eye contact..."
"Wait, who said anything about..."
"...or they've seen others do it..."
"Well, that's possible, but why did the first kid do it, then?"
"...or they're used to whispering."
"But they didn't whisper the fir..."
"Thank you for asking for my professional opinion!"
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:22 PM on August 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


If your child is in the public school system, have her evaluated. If it is an issue, they will set up an IEP and work with her.
posted by AugustWest at 8:30 PM on August 9, 2011


I used to do that. I liked the sound of words. It was embarrassing if someone noticed, though. I probably had some mild ADD, but nothing serious.
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:39 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I did this. My own son has done this. I have 14 younger cousins and I remember the vast majority of them doing it. I think this is super, super common.
posted by peep at 8:41 PM on August 9, 2011


It can be a sign of hyperlexia. Or not.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:14 PM on August 9, 2011


One of my kids did this for a couple years (around 10-12). He would mouth everything in the last sentence of a statement, or from the last pause, not even whisper but mouth it.
He was diagnosed as "gifted" and ADD some years before that, and had some trouble with English/reading.
Now he is 15, earns A's in honors science classes in HS, and still has trouble with english and especially spelling ...
He had his OWN words for things as a baby ... It was as funny/weird as the mouthing thing when that happened but also charming in its way and we knew what he meant so we just went with it.
No idea what it means, but I do think he'd be just fine if I weren't around to worry about his quirks anymore ...
Just my 2 cents
posted by bebrave! at 10:54 PM on August 9, 2011


Just to add - re your friend saying 'might be ADD!' - not everyone who has some amount of attention deficit has ADD in any meaningful way, and an awful lot of super-gifted and successful people have or had symptoms like your kid's without any negative impact.
posted by Lady Li at 11:36 PM on August 9, 2011


Normal behaviour for shamen, song writers and poets of all kinds:
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

posted by rongorongo at 2:38 AM on August 10, 2011


i use to do this a lot as a kid. i was a pretty solitary creature, so i only remember doing it alone, but i probably did it in front of people too. i do it a lot less now, but i still do it.

i've wondered if i have ADD (not ADHD - one of the reasons ADD is under diagnosed in girls is because everyone is looking for ADHD, not just ADD) - but i think more than anything i have OCD. i don't have the hand washing/stair counting (although, i count my steps a lot, i guess) sort of OCD - but more it's like "weird thing i do, lets wiki that" and then i find "related to OCD."

i'll also say, without trying to sound full of myself, that i was gifted in school - skipped a grade, took honors and AP classes, scored in the 95-98% percentile on basically all standardized tests. i read constantly. i ran math equations to help me fall asleep. i was a nerd. i think if i were born a decade or two later, someone might have tried to convince my parents i had aspergers - but as it was, i just got super bored in school.
posted by nadawi at 6:01 AM on August 10, 2011


I still do it occasionally, though not exactly in a whisper, but by way of questioning my pronunciation of it. So, like, "And then I arm wrestled the somalier. Somalier? Somalier."
posted by cmoj at 10:46 AM on August 10, 2011


My daughter has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (aka Asperger's) and also does this. The school evaluations she did never caught it.

If it is a concern for you, have her professionally evaluated.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:58 AM on August 10, 2011


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