Friday, January 27, 2012

Inner Speech, do you have it?

When you read do you hear a voice?  Is it often a the voice of what you know or think the author sounds like?  I was shocked to learn a few months ago that some people do. I ran across this article about how dyslexics don't have an inner voice when they read.  I guess that most people when they are reading have a voice inside of their head that they hear.  It often is the voice of what they know, or perceive the author of the written text to sound like!  This was shocking to me.  I went to my husband, then to my daughter (who are both dyslexic) and asked them if they heard 'a voice' when they read.  They verified they did not.  However, I don't either.  I am not by any means dyslexic.  I never knew anyone did! I know enough about dyslexia to know that just like many on the autism spectrum, they think in pictures.  Obviously, this inner speech thing is not central to being dyslexic, or autistic, but rather a byproduct of being wired differently.  Though, not everyone on the spectrum has no inner speech, either as I went straight for a very active AS forum and inquired about their inner speech, or lack of there.  A few pages of responses later and there were no clear evidence that we all were the same in this area.

So, to my surprise, I have seen the same type of inner speech theory  come up this week in relation to autism and ability to problem solve.  I think that their data and reasoning behind it is flawed.  I also think that the test to see if you 'have inner speech' (which I will post later in this entry) will produce much worry on the behalf of ASD parents everywhere that want their child to learn to live independently. It also assumes that one can bypass this issue by teaching an autistic person who thinks in pictures at a young age to use words instead.  This makes no sense to me.  It is impossible to think in a different way then one is wired to think.  It would be like trying to force Windows to run on a Mac.  Not gonna be compatible and everyone is gonna be confused and frustrated in the end.

How does someone like me, who runs a household efficiently and is capable of living independently do it without an inner voice to problem solve, or scaffolding, as my son's speech path would say?  I talk out loud, to myself.  Not as in having a conversation with myself, but as in talking myself through each step.  I'm sure that many of you with verbal children on the autism spectrum have heard your child talk to themselves.  We do this, because we don't do it inside of our heads like others do.  The more I concentrate on something the more I need to speak out loud about each step.  I know my son can be heard in his room at night repeating many conversations he's had with others that day, or practicing on new ones while he goes to sleep.  This is our way of working through the social stuff that you all do by instinct.  For me, it got much worse in my adolescence, though I don't know why.  I'm guessing it was due to needing to focus all that much more on the social side of language, instead of just using it for sharing information, as I had used it my whole life up until that point.  No matter what it is, I problem solve it out loud, or by writing it down.

To test your inner speech ability: 

(Taken from the link above)\


For this you need two people - one asking the questions and the other doing the test. If you find any of this difficult, it may indicate problems with reading.
Ask the person to say numbers one to 26 out loud, then to say them again, but saying one out loud and two and three in their heads, with their tongue clamped between their teeth.

They must not move any part of their body, such as nodding their head or using their fingers.
The correct sequence would be 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25. They must complete it within 25 seconds.
Using a pen, tap on the table, say, ten times and ask the other person to count the taps in their head, applying the same rules as above.

How did you do?  If you would, please leave a comment about how you did on the test and whether or not you have an ASD, dyslexia or ADHD.  You can also find more tests and some very interesting data on this page  about inner speech and different learning abilities.


27 comments:

  1. Oh wow. It never occurred to me to question the voice in my head. I barely notice it, really, except in situations such as hearing an audiobook with an American accent and finding it jarring because I've read it with an Australian accent in my head.

    It makes the difficulties that some kids have with literacy (and numeracy, to a degree) more understandable for me. There we teachers are trying to get them to learn phonics but there's no voice in their head to help them.

    I also use a lot of visual thinking, but there's no doubt there's a voice in my head when I'm reading, writing, counting, sorting through problems etc.

    It reminds me of a teaching seminar I was at where the leader was talking about Gardiner's theory of multiple intelligences. When he got to the musical/rhythmic intelligence he said "For instance, some people claim they can actually hear the music in their head." I was shocked. It was the first time it had ever occurred to me that anyone DOESN'T. I know most people occasionally get a song stuck in their head, but I have since learned that there are many people who go whole days without any music in their head, and they would struggle to dredge up a tune and just play it mentally. I, on the other hand, seem to always have music in my head. Even if I pay it no attention, it's there playing in the background.

    It is an interesting strategy, trying to teach children to consciously verbalise and gradually internally verbalise. The article stated that the research showed children with autism generally DO have this ability but it isn't naturally utilised, so perhaps there is a merit to this approach (the more thinking skills and coping strategies the better, after all). Certainly, children can be actively taught music "aural" awareness, even in those for whom it doesn't come fairly naturally, while that can feel like an impossible skill for an averagely unmusical adult.

    On the other hand, we do know there are some people who are just "tone deaf"! If dyslexic children don't have an inner voice then it's certainly possible not every child with autism has one.

    Either way, there is so much for child with autism to deal with that I would be reluctant to use this approach WITHOUT still allowing for visual supports etc. to make it as stress-free as possible.

    ~Zaiene

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    1. I think you're correct that not having the voice in my head messes me up when doing math. There's not a doubt that I have dycalculia, as does my 10 yo ASD son. We verified this at the last IEP meeting so we could get him help with his math skills, but also his spelling. He is hyperlexic so he never learned to sound out the words. Phonics means nothing to him. I'm guessing I may be hyperlexic to some degree, as well, but I have always been above average on spelling. Seems that even in my own house with numerous learning differences we can all agree we have no 'inner speech' yet it's for all different reasons. I guess, I'd like them to be more certain what it means (if anything) that someone doesn't have this inner speech. Seems too common with other disorders, as well as it varies for people on the spectrum, so it's not always correlation = causation as far as executive functioning goes. I'd like to know more before basing teaching principles on something like this.

      Wow, I never thought about how others might not have music.... weird. I always have music in my head.

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  2. I do not hear a voice in my head speaking when I read. I can use words in my head, but they are not sound-words, they are shape-words (written). My speech therapist says I have dyslexia, dysprxia, apraxia, and said that makes handwriting difficult. I never found out what those terms mean so I cannot say if it is accurate.

    But do not think my ability to read, type, or write could be better if I had a voice inside my head. I do not have problems with reading or typing, and I read a LOT. My difficulty with handwriting is with hand control and coordination, not lack of inner voice. Too hard to write legibly, and lower case letters like d, b, g, p, q, too similar to differentiate. Easy on a keyboard, since they all have their own position.

    When I need to do something that has steps, I type out each step in a list. Can not speak, may be my typed lists is my alternative to you speaking the steps to yourself. Even if I do not keep track of the list, typing it out helps organize my mind and helps me do the steps in the right order.

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    1. Sometimes, I write out steps if there's a lot of them, or something really new that I'm worried about doing. Like, (I can't believe I'm admitting this!) I recently started learning to put gas in my own car. I write the steps down on paper to take with me to review right before doing it and for security to have with me in case I needed a reminder. I guess I feel that it might be worth a try to help ASD kids without inner narrators naturally to learn to manufacture one, but it's also worth noting that as long as they learn coping skills and the job gets done in the end it doesn't matter how they got there. It may be less stressful for them to talk out loud, or write out steps, or even have a visual prompt. There's nothing wrong with that way of learning and doing things.

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  3. I have an inner narration that happens all the time in my head, describing and processing every bit of input I ever get. It notices sounds and feelings and words and music and the fact that my cat is right next to my elbow purring. It's almost a constant narration. It doesn't just turn "on" or "off" when I'm reading or writing, though I suppose it gets more focused? I'm not sure if its words in the traditional sense (they're words to me), but I guess that I would fall under the "yes, I have an internal monologue going all the time" category. For me, its just a running stream of consciousness, and how I process all the input that happens on a day to day basis. I wrote a piece that offers an insight to my "inner voice" on my blog - its called "Words", and I would recommend it. (URL: http://thethirdglance.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/words/)

    @droponeaddone - I also hear music in my head. Often I hear whole symphonies. When I have a song stuck in my head, I can harmonize internally with it. And every time I hear a piece of music I've played (Piano), my hands start playing right along with it. Often I play along with music I haven't played too.

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    1. I do relate very strongly to your 'words' post and how you process conversation. I feel exactly the same way, and I left a comment a few days ago about it. I do have a running consciousness at all times, sometimes it even feels super 'loud' but yet I fail the tapping and tongue clinching tests, as well as I don't think I ever really hear words in my head more than I see pictures, even if it's the picture of the written words of the object that I am hearing, or seeing.

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    2. Me, too. exactly like TheThirdGlance writes.

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    3. I, too, have constant inner speech and I speak inside while reading with the back of my mouth. Since I live alone and am always alone now, I can only hope no one notices me doing this! I also make noises with my mouth while writing. I read the words aloud that I write, and I am doing that now, though usually I do that while I comment on blogs. More creative stuff I do differently. Of note: I have very very bad insomnia. At the same time that the terrible insomnia started, my speech became extremely rapid. It's been five years now. My only hope is to work on the spoken speech. Rapid speech has completely obliterated my social life, sadly. People just walk away from me and won't even talk to me anymore, although since I've started consciously working on it I've noticed improvement all around.

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  4. When I read words, I have a very distinct voice in my head narrating it - it's a voice that I perceive myself to sound like (although evidence points to the contrary) which has stayed a steady pitch and vocal range my entire life. It reads things unemotionally and almost in a monotone.

    On the flipside, the voice does not narrate numbers. Numbers to me are far different in composition that words are; words have nuance and multiple meanings and are composed of sound whereas numbers exist as factual units of measurement and do not require vocalization to have substance. Numbers are pictures in my head and have very distinct sensations that go with them.

    @E (TheThirdGlance) I hear constant background music in my head at nearly every waking moment if I'm not completely focused on some other form of outside stimuli. Sometimes, my internal music player hits a bad note and even "skips" or dwells on that note and stretches it out for long periods of time until the tone fades. Then it starts back up again. Very annoying.

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    1. That is interesting that you have an inner narrator for speech, but not numbers. I just think that the whole entire process of thought and differences of how our minds perceive it differently, given we are all the same species interesting.

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  5. This is fascinating! I can't wait to take this test, but I am alone right now alas. In this context, my brain seems to work in a similar way to E's.

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  6. LoL I do hear the voice when I read and type. LOL I thought everyone did. Learned yet another new thing. Thanks.

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  7. My husband had a discussion about this, we both have those voices when we read. (Mines with me all the time, with every thought.) We had a hard time understanding how people can read without it. Very mind boggling.

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    1. I guess I don't know, really. I'm not dyslexic, nor do I have any trouble reading. My mind literally just seems to absorb knowledge without me thinking it. I really have no other way to describe it. I was am a decent writer as well, so it confuses me, too. Sometimes, my mind reads things so fast that I will get a word that will pop up in my head. I'll literally see the typed word in my mind and I will have to find out where I read it at. It could anywhere in the room within reading distance. It could be a sign, or a piece of paper with a shopping list on it, or a can of pop. It's always been this way since I learned to read. I remember trying to explain it to my mom and realizing she had absolutely no clue what I was talking about and that other people didn't read like that.

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  8. I remember the time in my late 20's when I suddenly "switched" to having an inner voice in my head for everyday thoughts. It was something that I'd never had when just doing everyday thinking...I used to think largely in pictures before then. At the time I was angry at someone, so they were angry thoughts. It felt like a very negative experience at the time. Now I sometimes think in pictures and sometimes think in words. I very often end up talking out loud when I've been trying to think in words for a while and forget that others are around (or they are not around). This is especially true when I am going over previous conversations in my head or preparing for future conversations with others. The only times I had an inner voice prior to this age was occasionally when reading however I never have had the experience of hearing the voice as if from the author's voice, only in my own voice. Often times, however, I also had to see the words in my head at the same time.

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    1. Also, I think through ideas, plan things, and communicate in general the best when I write it out rather than just trying to think it and I believe this to also be related to the difficulties with the inner voice. Listening to the chatter inside my head can be just as distracting and unpleasant as listening to other people's chatter. It seems less cogent and logical, and simply not my thinking at its best, if that makes sense.

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    2. I've tried to remember what my thinking was like when I was a kid, but I can't fully remember other than I clearly remember that when I learned to read and write I saw the words in my head, like literally, typed out.

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  9. I definitely have an inner voice but when I'm doing something new and difficult, it *still* helps to say the steps out loud. It probably works by easing the working memory load--the amount of mental space I need to spend keeping track of all the steps in the task--so I can just focus on doing the task. I picked up the habit from my also highly-verbal parents, who also have inner voices, as far as I know.

    My guess is this strategy is especially common in people with learning disabilities, just because more tasks are difficult, and they might have more demands on their working memory. But I bet it would help *anyone* dealing with a difficult multi-step task.

    So, if you're a parent, I wouldn't worry if you see your kid talking to themselves. It doesn't imply anything about whether or not they have inner speech. If anything, they're demonstrating an excellent self-help skill! :)

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    1. I think most people do talk to themselves. Maybe, some of us more than others!

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  16. It's known as the phonological loop and it is linked to memory. I remember thinking how odd it must be not to hear when learning that not everyone does.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. It's always odd to learn that others think in such different ways. Like, I learned that not everyone has vivid dreams full of color. Some people dream in black and white. That was such an odd thing to me.

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