Stimming in autistic individuals can take many different forms. It can range from physical movements to vocal repetition of words or phrases.
In this blog, we will look at:
- What does it mean when an autistic person is scripting?
- What does autistic scripting look like?
- Why is scripting for autistic people helpful?
- Is scripting in autism bad?
- Does scripting go away in autism?
- Treatment and support options
What Does It Mean When An Autistic Person Is Scripting?
Scripting is a form of delayed echolalia that refers to the action of repeating a word or phrase from another person’s speech, commonly from movies or television. It’s a type of stim (self-stimulatory behavior) used by autistic people that may be used for communication or as a means to self-regulate.
What Does Autistic Scripting Look Like?
Autistic scripting can come in the form of repeating specific words, phrases, or sounds picked up from another source (movie, TV show, book, personal interaction). These memorized words and phrases can be used in social situations or alone. Unless using a prominent line, autistic scripting tends to blend in with regular conversation and may go undetected by those surrounding the person using the words and phrases.
Why Is Scripting For Autistic People Helpful?
Adults and children with autism use scripting for several reasons, including sensory regulation, masking, simplifying communication, or simply as entertainment.
Like other forms of stimming, scripting can help autistic children and adults manage sensory input, especially if they’re feeling overstimulated. The literal process of speaking words and phrases can balance out internal equilibrium and regulate emotions. A person may use other stims alongside scripting, such as hand flapping or head nodding to stabilize themselves further.
It’s common for autistic people to have challenges with social interactions and interpersonal communication. Scripting can often be used to mask their autism by mirroring the words and behaviors of neurotypical people. In this way, they have memorized default responses to answers. Research has shown masking to be a negative behavior associated with stigma-induced anxiety and depression in autistic individuals.
Because autistic people may find it more challenging to communicate their wants and needs to others, they may use scripting. If they’ve had negative experiences where others didn’t understand their message, they may prefer using a memorized line to convey their questions or statements.
Scripting doesn’t always have to be used in communication or social situations. An autistic child or adult may repeat lines they’ve memorized simply because they enjoy it. One common characteristic of autism is having special interests or fixations surrounding specific topics. If an autistic person has a favorite movie, book, speaker, etc., they may enjoy repeating their lines out loud.
Is Scripting In Autism Bad?
Scripting itself isn’t “bad” or a dangerous practice. It can be a healthy way to convey meanings, be understood, and regulate senses. It’s crucial to have a healthy balance between scripting and communication growth. If scripting is getting in the way of learning how to adapt to conversations or communicate properly, it’s important to work on these skills with a speech language pathologist or ABA therapist.
Likewise, scripting can become problematic if a person does it as a way to mask their autism. Continued masking has led to a disconnection from a person’s sense of identity and decreased mental stability. If you or a loved one use masking to hide your true self, approach the situation with compassion. Find healthy ways to promote communication skills and educate yourself on the reasons behind autism stigma.
Does Scripting Go Away In Autism?
Like other stims or echolalia (the repetition of words or phrases), autistic people may grow out of scripting over time as their speech and social skills adapt. This isn’t always the case, and you may see a consistent or increasing pattern of scripting.
To ensure that authentic communication isn’t hindered, you can work with a specialist like a behavioral therapist or speech pathologist to get to the root cause of scripting and to build communication skills.
Treatment & Support Options
If you’re looking for outside support to promote communication, socialization, or self-regulation skills, several options are available to you and your loved ones.
Speech therapy encompasses three primary objectives: enhancing pronunciation, strengthening speech muscles, and correcting speech and speech patterns. These goals collectively assist patients in more effectively conveying their thoughts and understanding others.
Speech therapists use exercises and activities like word games, reading aloud, facial movements, and tongue exercises to help patients speak naturally and correctly. This therapy goes beyond improving communication and enhances patients’ quality of life.
Occupational therapy deals with independent skill development. These include everyday things like brushing your teeth and getting dressed, which can also help with overstimulation.
An occupational therapist will introduce sensory stimuli to their patient to lessen overstimulation and help them grow more comfortable with different sensations. Likewise, they can encourage play skills like sharing and verbalizing scenarios to increase a patient’s confidence in social interactions.
ABA is a therapy method that focuses on understanding how behaviors function and using that knowledge to find the best ways for an individual to learn. The main goal of ABA therapy is to understand a person’s behavior and create a treatment plan to improve their learning and conduct.
ABA techniques and principles are used to bring about positive changes in behavior while also reducing problematic behaviors that can interfere with learning or be harmful. For problematic stimming, ABA therapy can help autistic individuals develop alternative self-regulation methods or change stim behaviors that are disruptive in certain situations.