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Why do my students repeat the same question?


Do typical speakers repeat questions effectively?

One day I watched two men have a conversation when the first man asked the second man a question. The second man shrugged his shoulders and answered. Almost immediately, the first man repeated the question. While the second man was clearly annoyed, he continued to repeat his original answer. Frustration, anger, resentment began to build for both men.


Was the first man seeking a different answer? Didn't he understand the answer? Where was the communication breakdown?


Repeating the Question- professional version

A student-teacher of mine repeatedly asked, "How do I do group therapy?” Once the question was answered, she shook her head in acceptance. Had she asked how to handle three rambunctious preschool-aged children, our relationship would have soared. Instead, it soured.


Repeating the Question- child version

Students continually ask when is it time to go, time for lunch, time for gym class, etc. Even when the student is practiced at answering his/her own questions, that child continues to repeat the same questions.

Some of our students see us arrive at their classroom door. They ask, “Do you want me?” Every. Last. Time.


What are they really asking?

The student-teacher was overwhelmed and lacked the skill to recognize that she wanted to know about behavior management.

Our “lunch question asking” child may have shown us that she was uncertain about her speech session. In the future, she may need more success to feel ready to stay focused on the day. She may need to laugh. She may need to move around a bit to release anxiety.


Our “do you need me” students may need a visual plan to stay on track. At the time you entered the room, they may have been at a place where they were able to transition easily. If they didn't understand sequence and time, they may have worried that they would have missed a favored activity. These students may be telling you that they enjoy coming to your room and that they lack the appropriate social skills to tell you so.


How do you analyze the miscommunication?

The speech pathologist needs to look at the problem from the beginning to the end and analyze what he/she has seen or heard. I once heard a psychologist say that if a behavior frustrates us, then that person doesn't have a necessary skill set. What skill set is needed for the groups of people listed above?

Additionally, we must look at the timeline of the question -before, during, and after the question. Gauge the communication intention by the response of the child. Did the question calm, soothe, or further agitate the child?


Understanding the behavior of others can create sessions that are successful and fun. Progress can be made.


So, is it time for lunch yet?

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