When your verbal child doesn’t answer your questions

It can be so frustrating to not receive a response when you ask your child with autism a question.

This can happen for many reasons including: your child may not have heard you, he may not have understood the question, he may be processing your question and needs more wait time, he may not be able to access the words to answer your question, or he may even feel overwhelmed and not want to answer your question.

There are many strategies you can implement to help your child answer questions:

  1. There are tons of things going on in your child’s auditory, overstimulated, sensory world. He may be tuning into the fan, air-conditioner, someone else’s conversation, the clock ticking, or the birds chirping. He may hear those sounds at the same volume as your voice, which can make focusing on your question incredibly difficult. Be sure to get your child’s attention, before asking him a question. Say his name, or tap him on the shoulder and then say his name to get his attention. Once he looks at you, or gives you a signal that he is focusing on you, then ask him your question.
  2. Silently count to 5 or 10 after you ask him a question. Your child may just need more processing time to understand and answer your question.
  3. If you still don’t get a response, restate the question using different words. Ask the question in a different way. Perhaps, he didn’t understand what you were asking him the first time.
  4. Your child may know the answer to the question, but he may have difficulties getting the words out of his mouth to answer you. You can assist him with this by verbally prompting him. State the first few words of the response to get him warmed up. For example, when asking, “Johnny, what did we do this weekend?” Help him respond by saying, “We went to the…”
  5. It’s possible that your child just doesn’t feel like talking. He may be feeling stressed, overstimulated, and overwhelmed by the current social situation. A child once told me that because he was so stressed with all of the people in a room, he seriously forgot how old he was when an adult asked him, so he just didn’t respond. You can help your child by preparing him and explaining that he may be in a social situation where he will have to answer questions. If he doesn’t know an answer right away, he can say, “Hold on one second, let me think about it.” You can even review some possible questions that others may ask him. Role playing, reviewing, and even making a list of possible questions can set him up for success.


Have you experienced this challenge before, when your verbal child doesn’t answer your questions? Please share below!


The Social Skills Workbook for Children and Teens with Autism

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  • Donna Hawkins
    Posted at 12:24h, 28 June Reply

    This happens a lot with our son. It’s very frustrating, so it’s nice to have done insight and advice on what to do.

  • Erin Barrett
    Posted at 11:15h, 10 August Reply

    We experience this multiple times daily or hourly sometimes. I think that there are times when our son has the response in his head and that is enough for him. We try different approaches and giving him time is usually the best method only if he’s not distracted before he’s able to verbalize.

    Everyday is an adventure. Thanks for this post. I always get something useful or feel reassured in what I’m doing.

  • Natalie
    Posted at 08:04h, 18 August Reply

    My son who usually able to answer questions quite well esp what, who or where but one fine day he decided to stop answering at all and only parrot the questions. Even when I tried giving him some guide to the answer or waited for a long time, he still refused to answer and kept waiting for my mouth to move and talk first before he imitates me exactly word to word. He would be looking at my lips and wanting to use his hand to move it. I’m not sure why is this.

    • Jennifer Lingle
      Posted at 12:39h, 18 November Reply

      Apologies for the delayed response. How are conversations going with your son now? Is he still exhibiting this echolalia (repeating everything you say)?

  • Judi
    Posted at 17:32h, 03 September Reply

    Boy, this is frustrating and today, I’m just sad about it & tired of dealing with it. My granddaughter has always ignored me. It’s not personal, it’s developmental, I get it . It’s very helpful to have that explained to me.

    • Jennifer Lingle
      Posted at 12:39h, 18 November Reply

      So sorry for the delayed response. I am grateful that you found my post helpful. Hang in there.

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