Down Syndrome and Self-Talk

Talking to Myself

As I’ve explained a bit previously, in my family we talk to ourselves. Out-loud. A lot.

**Can I just take a moment here and say, I really think both outloud and alot should be one word. They are one thought each. I mean if cannot is one word…Alright. (Another one word) Fine. Have it your way.

It’s that inclination to rant or work something out that leads me to what I now know is called “self-talk.”

I also work through questions and answers when I’m working on a tricky problem, be it in reality or fiction, and there’s always a lot of self-talk going on in the car with my steering wheel. You don’t even want to know what I say to my computer. Marcus used to ask who I was talking to, now he doesn’t bother. So, when Marcus followed suit with his own self-talk, I wasn’t alarmed. And I certainly never thought of it as part of Down syndrome.

Down Syndrome and Self-Talk

However, apparently it is.  I first heard the phrase self-talk in association with Down syndrome last year on World Down Syndrome Day during the speeches within the United Nations. One of the doctors, and forgive me for not remembering and searching for this, spoke about how this self-talk actually helps many of his patients with Down syndrome make and stick to good decisions about their health. The subject came up again more recently and I thought, I should look into that. So after a quick Google search, I found out that a huge amount of people with Down syndrome, like over 80% in adults engage in self-talk.

Here are a few very important points from the Down Syndrome Education On-Line about the subject of Down syndrome and self-talk:

  1. 1. This behaviour is not a delusion or hallucination
  2. 2. A person’s age and level of disability do not influence their ability to engage in self talk
  3. 3. The content of self-talk focused on an event that recently occurred or was expected to occur, a television programme or movie, family or friends, completion of an activity, or various complaints
  4. 4. Self-talk also serves as an outlet for planning or rehearsing an activity, working out a problem, or as a self-dialogue about something interesting or important      

Now, like any good report does, #2 was contradicted within the report to a certain extent. An official UK study on DS and self-talk led the authors to the conclusion that:

“Self-talk was absent in persons with a calculated mental age below 37 months, while for persons with a mental age above 128 months, self-talk was not currently reported by their parents but had been an observed behaviour in the past.”

This is an interesting analysis because self-talk is a natural phase that children tend to go through as they start combining language and problem solving. It is not unusual for children to talk to themselves out loud and work through problems or plans. However, most of them grow out of it, so to speak. (Unlike me) thinking dt rs

Self-Talk…Not Hallucinatory

It should be stressed that this sort of self-talk is not a hallucinatory behavior and as I write this, I think it’s telling that the fact that Marcus talks to himself could be misconstrued as a sign of mental illness never occurred to me.  I will admit that sometimes when Marcus is talking to himself, usually not out-loud but his face is moving and I know what he’s doing (but not thinking because he refuses to tell me most of the time), I may worry what other people think about his self-talk.

I’ve always thought of his self-talk as proof that his mind turns and works through issues, but I don’t give other people enough credit to recognize this. I believe that genetics is surely at work here when it comes to Marcus’ frequency in talking to himself. However I don’t think it’s only in the 21st chromosomes. Or maybe it’s human nature. Or maybe it’s just me.  Let’s see… What do you think? You can tell me…*

This post originally went up in Oct of 2013. I decided today it’s a good #TBT because last weekend I went to a conference session with the Speaker Dr. Dennis McGuire. (I loved it so much!) ANYway, Dr. McGuire wrote the book on wellness in adults with DS. No, seriously, here’s the book: .

In the conference session he touched on many points, this one alot. (rebel.) I plan to sprinkle some of his other points in future blogs. In the meantime, go ahead, tell me what you think.

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  1. Jennifer Lovett Herbranson October 19, 2013 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    We talk to ourselves at our house too. I think it’s the best way to internalize and work through issues. Tornado (aka Caiden) actually got a demerit at school for talking to herself in an empty hallway (good grief!). But if I’m having trouble with part of a story I’m writing or if I have to discuss something with someone, talking out loud truly helps me work out all the issues. And I know that’s true for Tornado as well. It’s kinda cool because I always know what she’s thinking about or having trouble with.
    I also see it as perfectly normal and those who don’t do it are the weird ones 🙂

  2. Stephanie January 10, 2014 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Wow! Just found this and I’m so glad I did!!!!! Have to admit we’re on the same page (as usual)… and as I say this I have to drown out the sound of Josh talking to his video game in the next room.

    I thought he did it because he’s an only child and doesn’t have anyone else to talk to. AND! I was also glad he does because it gives me some insight into what he’s thinking and how he’s learning. It’s amazing to (sneaky) listen to how he’s trying to sound out words on the screen and how he works out what to do next in the game….

    Never occurred to me that it was an “illness”

    Thanks for this!!!!!!!!!

    • Mardra January 10, 2014 at 5:36 pm - Reply

      Thanks for stopping and… Yeah, I know, right?!

  3. Stephanie June 28, 2014 at 11:24 am - Reply

    LOL! I’ve heard you talk to your computer! 😀

    • Mardra June 29, 2014 at 9:55 am - Reply

      Yes, and that’s when I’m censoring.

  4. Downs Side Up June 29, 2014 at 1:37 am - Reply

    Very interesting post. Natty chats to herself for hours, she wakes up re-enacting film scripts and so on. Like you, I just assumed it’s what kids do, and it’s what our family does. Bob is always talking tohimself in the kitchen…
    H x

    • Mardra June 29, 2014 at 9:55 am - Reply

      Creative brains can’t help but be busy. Thanks for the host-up.

  5. Daven Anderson March 13, 2015 at 9:53 am - Reply

    I shared this on my Facebook author page to enlighten people as to why my main character Jack Wendell occasionally says things aloud that he did not intend to. In over twenty years of working with the real-life individuals who inspired Jack, I have become quite acclimated to their unique speech traits. Many people confuse slow speech with slow cognition. I, of course, know better. Jack’s first-person POV allows the readers to get inside Jack’s head and see who he is, beyond his outer speech. A few readers of “Vampire Syndrome” thought Jack was ‘too cognizant’ for what they thought capable of persons with Down Syndrome, but every person *with Down Syndrome* who has read my novel says I nailed it, and their reviews are the ones that matter to me!

    • Mardra March 13, 2015 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      Yes, people make assumptions about communication that are…wrong.
      Thanks for sharing about your work, too!

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