The Case for Private Speech As a Mode of Self-Formation: What Its Absence Contributes to Understanding Autism

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Abstract

Private speech is common among 3- to 7-year-olds but rare among children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Thus far, this phenomenon has only been studied in narrow cognitive contexts. This article presents a case for why the phenomenon of private speech is essential for the development of self and subjectivity and for why an analysis of private speech from this standpoint will enable a better and broader understanding of difficulties in the experience of self among individuals with ASD. The article discusses the importance of the concept of the self for development and presents evidence of limited concepts of self in autism. Furthermore, it surveys theories on the development of components essential to the development of the self (e.g., self-dialogue, inner speech). Finally, the article lays out a model for how to think about private speech in a broader framework related to individuals with ASD.

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