Self-directed speech and self-regulation in childhood neurodevelopmental disorders: Current findings and future directions

Dev Psychopathol. 2020 Feb;32(1):205-217. doi: 10.1017/S0954579418001670.


Self-directed speech is considered an important developmental achievement as a self-regulatory mediator of thinking and behavior. Atypical self-directed speech is often implicated in the self-regulatory challenges characteristic of children with neurodevelopmental disorders. A growing body of evidence provides snapshots across age-levels and diagnoses, often presenting conflicting results. This systematic review is undertaken to impose clarity on the nature, extent, and self-regulatory implications of self-directed speech interruption in children with developmental language disorder (DLD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).A rigorous search process of relevant databases (i.e., PsychInfo, PubMed, CINAHL, ERIC) uncovered 19 relevant peer-reviewed articles that investigate self-directed speech in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Consistent across the research, children with DLD, ASD, and ADHD present with differential development and use of self-directed speech.In its synthesis of findings, this systematic review clearly explicates the differential ontogenesis of self-directed speech in neurodevelopmental disorders and interprets the self-regulatory implications for children with DLD, ASD, and ADHD. Furthermore, the review spotlights important future research directions to better understand the mechanistic relationship between self-directed speech and self-regulation.

Keywords: ADHD; autism spectrum disorder; language disorder; private speech; self-directed speech.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self-Control*
  • Speech*