Step daughter talking to self and very withdrawn


New Member
First off, what an amazing site here! I hope that someone can help us as we are out of ideas.

I have a 9 yr old step daughter that has been diagnosed "on the autism spectrum " and she lives with us half time. She is a very bright girl, but has many behavioral issues at home and school. she has not voluntarily said a word to me in the 3 years her father and I have been together. She won't talk to anyone other than her dad , and if someone talks to her she gets very nervous and awkward and uncomfortable. She also talks to herself nonstop which I find unbearable. Her father also has a hard time with it and reminds her occasionally to stop, but she'll just start up again 30 seconds later and we are both at our wits end and it causes constant problems between he and I. His remedy is to make her play in her room and ignore it, where mine would be to stay on her and give her consequences like I did with my 3 almost grown children growing up. There has been big issues at school with her disrupting class and other behavior issues but I never see any consequences and I get told I don't understand her. Her mother (I'm told) has always just let her take over and never made to behave but I don't know how much more I can take! Is this something that is normal and she shouldn't be made to listen or behave? We have a 1 yr old that she plays with but will take toys from her and hoard them and it's making me come unglued, but I'm always come out looking like the bad person. Anyone! Help! Please!


Well-Known Member
I have an grown autistic son. Stepdaughters odd behaviors are not willful defiance. They are due to her autism and I would talk to a SPECIALIST in autism before giving her consequences for something just because it annoys you (I say this gently). It could be one of her stims(look up autistic stims) and probably is not something she can help or that you should get involved with. I agree with your husband. As for one year old, you will have to monitor nine year old with her. She doesnt understand give and take playing, which is part of the bewildering world an autistic child lives in. And her parents. I would not leave them alone.

I would let school take care of school and in my opinion you need to read up on autism. Like most people not intimitely touched by autism, you dont understand it. This is the norm. Autistic behavior looks like bad behavior but its not intentionally bad. You married a man with a very special daughter who interacts with the world in the only way she can. Punishing her for autistic behavior could tramatize her. Leave it to experts. You knew your husbands daughter would be challenging before you married him...autism is puzzling and can be difficult. It just is. We adopted our son at age two. Among other things, he didnt sleep much for two years so neither did we!! We had to put a lock high up on all doors or he would leave the house at 2am if we did happen to both fall asleep. He put a penny in our electric socket once, got a shock and killed all our fish in fish tank when he did that. It wasnt easy, but he was loving and sweet and we adored him. Still do.

If there is an autism group for parents in the area I would join it.

AUTISM IS NOT A PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM NOR IS IT BEING NAUGHTY. it is a real neurological difference that those who love her need to help and understand. My son got many school interventions with helped him greatly. He used to sit in his room and talk to himself nonstop and sing. It was okay. He has learned not to blurt things in public but he still has a need to talk to himself at home, in his apartment. Its okay. He is independent and works two jobs and lives alone on his own dime but he tells us he still talks to himself and sings. Never once did we criticize him for autistic behavior. Not once. Yes, it was trying at times, but he got tons of help and got repeatedly better and happier. Stepdaughter should also be getting interventions. If not, that is on the parents, not the child.

My son will be 24. Everyone loves him...I do mean everyone. He has more heart than most people and has learned to mirror normal brhavior but he is still different and thats okay...he is wonderful.

I am sure your stepdaughter is wonderful too but you need to understand her as does father if he doesnt. Talking to a person who specializes in autism...maybe a neuro psychologist...could help. in my opinion it is harmful to see her as annoying you on purpose or bad...there are people trained to help autistic kids do their best. They are the ones who should help her and guide you...and with kind undetstanding. Regular behavioral therapists dont work with autistic kids.

Has she ever had ABA? Has she ever gone to speech, occupational therapy or social skills classes? My son did all this from infancy. Speech is not just sbout pronounciation. It is about learning to communicate normally. Some autistics need to communicate with technology. Autism is in large part a communication disorder and developmental delay. My son didnt speak until 5, but he can communicate with everyone now. But he got a lot of help and seems higher functioning than your stepdaughter. Still...she can progress but you two need guidance from a specialist in autism.

Good luck. Please be patient. And know it wont be easy. Developmentally she is very far behind her peers. It is the way of autism.
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I don't know anything about how to handle children on the autism spectrum, but in reading your description of her, I had a strong intuitive reaction that she is not defying you by talking to herself - this is accomplishing something for herself, and should be honored! You may not like it, but it is serving some use in her development. It may not be practical (she may need a special school situation which would give space for this need she has) - but I think it is cruel and misguided to try to discipline her in this area (not intentionally cruel, but just the same) . . . "take what you like" . . .

I would meet with someone who understands the autism spectrum, but is not a "by the book" person - someone on the innovative side - a social worker who has studied narrative therapy or something like that.

I would also try diffusing essential oils in the house. It would help all of you to accept each other and live more peacefully.


Well-Known Member
I would not put her in a special school. My son WAS in Special Education (in public school) for reading and math and this helped him because he got special attention and became the class leader. He had a normal IQ...but he needed quiet in order to process. Eventually he was mainstreamed and did well!

I would get traditional autism therapy to help her. This usually includes social skills classes, physical therapy and occupational therapy and often speech. She can get a lot better but she needs the right kind of help. She is not being defiant. She is being autistic.

Take care :)

pigless in VA

Well-Known Member
Autistic behavior looks like bad behavior but its not intentionally bad.

Welcome, Gatormom. I've spent the past 2 years working with children on the autistic spectrum. Yes, they have MANY behaviors which can be unbelievably annoying. I agree with SWOT in that I think your step-daughter is compelled to talk to herself. I don't think she is doing it to be annoying deliberately or disruptive at school.

I worked with a boy who played with words like they were toys. He would repeat odd phrases over and over and over and over. Some of my favorites were "blue chocolate letters," "Sam's soap," and "Carrabas." This particular kid never stopped moving. He was constantly stimming: hand flapping, arm waving, rocking, teeth grinding, or repeating choice phrases. It was simply a part of who he was. I loved watching him at P.E. I could never get him to participate but he loved dancing around the gym anytime they played music. Sometimes he even wore a cone on his head.

A kid who I worked with this past year liked to shake his head violently. I would have had a headache if I tried to do it, but he liked it and could even walk quickly while doing it.

Please don't feel slighted by your step-daughter's inability to talk with you. Children on the autistic spectrum can be very slow to trust new people. My suggestion for you is to meet her at her level. What does she like to do? Does she have any special interests?

I was able to make a connection with one girl over dogs. She was always happy to discuss dogs with me. One boy loved dinosaurs. Another loved airplanes. Honestly, you couldn't talk with him about anything but airplanes. I admit that is not something I cared to learn about, but if you wanted a conversation with him, that's where you had to go.

I'm sure her talking to herself tries your patience to it's limits. Please give yourself breaks from her chatter even if that requires you to put on headphones. Take the baby for a walk. Enjoy your quiet days when she's with her mom. You can do this; your step-daughter needs you to be a support for her. The world will be extra hard for her.


Roll With It
part of what she needs is occupational therapy for sensory issues also called sensory integration disorder. It is part of autism, a big part, and learning about it will help you all. Part of treating sensory issues is providing a sensory diet for her. A sensory diet is just varied sensory activities that have the sensory input that her brain needs. Some people don't process input from their senses the way regular people do.

I belong in that group. Lots of sensory input drives me crazy. I cannot eat if someone at the table is chewing with their mouth open. I will barf. Every time. It is the sound of them chewing and the sight of the food. I can't wear or even touch many fabrics. They itch and bother me. Greatly. As in they send shudders through my whole body. If a shirt or dress itches you, you can wear it and ignore the itch. If it itches me, I can't thin\k or concentrate on anything else until that shirt or dress is off of me.