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I am asking about my stepson. I don't have any children of my own, but to me his behavior seems bizarre.

He talks constantly and will say the same thing several times using different words. For example: "That building is really old. Look at that old building. That building looks really old." This happened during a walk recently. We acknowledge and respond to each statement, but after that third time it gets kind of redundant.

Also, he needs specific instructions. If you ask him to get dressed and do not tell him to take off his pajamas he will just put his clothes on over top.

He checks out mentally a lot. You can send him into the bathroom to brush his teeth and find him standing there ten minutes later, staring into space, not yet having brushed his teeth.

He also has a very poor memory. He cannot recall what he did at school or what he ate for lunch. Basic questions seem to confuse him. I ask "what did you do at the park?" He says " what did I do?" Or he will just not answer or will make up an answer. I guess because he can't remember.

He asks a lot of rhetorical questions, for example, when I am making coffee he will ask what I am doing. I use to answer but now I say "what does it look like I am doing?" where he will respond "making coffee."

Other times he is super bright; good coordination. I taught him to ride his bike at age four. I just don't get it.

Also it is like he is incapable of being alone or entertaining himself. He will follow you everywhere and wants to get super close. If you send him to his room to play he will ask to watch T.V. instead. If he is told "no, go play with your toys for a bit" he usually won't go, he will just hide in the stairwell. He would prefer to just sit on the steps and watch me wash dishes or his dad do paperwork.

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The last paragraph is 100% normal. My kids would watch me shave. Or work (i work as programmer. Nothing more boring) –  user3143 May 28 '14 at 2:40
Children learn through talking. The old building is a great opportunity to broaden vocab and to introduce imagination - "old, dusty, ramshackle, tumbledown, derelict"; "who do you think used to love there? What did they do? Where did they go and why?". Coffee is a great opportunity to talk about planning "i have the coffee, what else do I need?" And processes "i put the coffee in here, then what happens?". Children really love talking a lot. –  DanBeale May 28 '14 at 13:54

4 Answers 4

Although your son's behaviour might be strange to some people, it seems perfectly fine. Some children are daydreamers and your son seems to be one too.

He lives in his own world and thoughts, so he just stands there and stares into open space. He forgets about the lunch and other activities, because they are not important to him or because he dreamed while doing them in auto-mode. Maybe he was in the park not doing anything at all despite thinking, so he didn't do or see anything he could tell you about. He probably recognizes that people find it weird if he doesn't remember, so he makes something up to fit in.

Rhetorical questions might be a way for him trying to connect to you, if he doesn't know what else to say. He might use it as a conversation starter, in the hope you tell him more other things as well.

Implicit statements might be hard to understand for him or he doesn't even question the purpose or sense of your instructions, because he has other thoughts in mind in the meanwhile.

Children constantly saying the same things with different words don't seem unusual to me. Maybe the fact that the house is old impressed him a lot, maybe he needs to tell it several times to put emphasis on it, to let you know that this is important to him at that moment. Or maybe he enjoys your attention, but can not come up with something else.

The unability to entertain himself is another thing, imho. It is something a child has to learn and watching you also seems a kind of self-entertainment for your son. Children also prefer to be close to their parents, playing in the same room if possible. If this is an option for you, allow him to play where you are. Or allow him to watch you or to participate in whatever you are doing (if possible).

Most importantly: Take him the way he is and concentrate on his strengths. People tend to misunderstand daydreamers and show disapproval for their behaviour, because it doesn't make sense to them. Let your son know, that he is perfectly fine, especially through your actions (e.g. don't raise your eyebrow in disapproval, because he did something you can not understand for the moment; don't laugh about him, unless he laughs about his behaviour too).

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Perfectly normal for a child based on your descriptions and not too distant from my youngest (and he's 8 years old)!

I put a lot of it down to attention and everything has to centre around them.

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I have a 5-yr old kid that does exactly the same (including that part that he ignores your question).

Completely normal for me.

Sounds like you don't have to worry.

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I can't diagnose someone over the internet, but it's possible he might be on the autistic spectrum. Repetitive speech patterns, spacing out, taking things literally, and poor memory are all common features of autistic kids - as is having an uneven pattern of strengths and weaknesses.

Does he have trouble making friends? Does he show other kinds of repetitive behavior? Does he avoid eye contact or have unusual or flat facial expression or tone of voice? Does he react too strongly or not strongly enough to ordinary sensations (eg upset by noises, picky eating, insensitivity to pain, etc)?

If he has a bunch of traits like that, and those traits are causing him problems in some form, it may be worth getting him checked out. But if his quirks aren't bothering him, don't worry about it. Autism is a spectrum, and there are people with autistic traits who do just fine.

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Hi, Ettina. This is a good answer, and helpful. A link to a reference or source of information about Autism Spectrum Disorder would make it even better. Thanks for your valuable contributions to the site. –  anongoodnurse 2 hours ago

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