Close Menu

I was recently asked by the mother of a 3-year-old why her child frequently asks questions to which he already knows the answer. This is not unusual for children on the spectrum but can be confusing and frustrating for parents. Hopefully, this insight will help!

Four reasons your child may be asking the same questions over and over (and over)…

#1 Predictability

Because questions with known responses are very predictable and predictability is comforting. They are a sure-fire way to engage a conversational partner and they provide a safe, familiar way of doing it. Your child already knows the answer so there are no big surprises- just a pleasant and reliable back-and-forth interaction. Think of it like a call-and-response. It’s most likely regulating for your child and may even serve as kind of a warm-up for further, more adventurous conversation.

#2 Familiar is Easier

Formulating novel and expanded questions can be challenging and anxiety provoking for some children. The familiar, more rehearsed question forms are going to be easier to pull up from memory. Think about when you feel nervous or under pressure to generate good conversation—it can be stressful! We all have some standard questions/responses that we rely on, even if it’s just as filler until we come up with something better.

"The familiar, more rehearsed question forms are going to be easier to pull up from memory."

#3 Playing it Safe

Your child may have difficulty processing novel information. So, even if your child is capable of formulating a new question, it might lead to confusion when he gets the answer. If this is something that’s happened a few times before, the emotional memory and anxiety experienced by the child may be enough to discourage them from taking any risks.

#4 Modeling

Your child might be doing what they’ve learned to do. Children are asked questions all the time by adults who know the answers to them. This is especially true for kids who might not talk as much or are slower to develop language. Think about how often we ask kids what color something is or what noise an animal makes, even when we clearly know they know the answer! The motivation is somewhat the same: we get the response we’re hoping for, have an enjoyable interaction, and feel good as a result.

Answering a couple of these predictable, repetitive questions to help regulate a child may be a good way to start an exchange. Then, try expanding on them in any way you can. This may look like:

  • Offering a familiar response but adding more information
  • Wondering aloud about something associated with the same topic
  • Turning it into a game if you can! Providing silly answers can lead to a nice back-and-forth exchange. Then, the pressure that comes along with asking questions will be lessened because the focus is on shared engagement and silliness instead.
  • It might also help to have a replacement “warm up”– a predictable, back-and-forth game or song that has lots of repetition and will help regulate your child.

Most importantly, remind yourself that this behavior, too, serves a purpose. Try out some strategies but keep in mind that sometimes it’s okay to just answer those questions on auto-pilot; it might be what both of you need at that moment!

If you have questions or concerns about your child's development, please reach out to us. Early intervention is so important.