A recent Morning Edition, a radio news broadcast by NPR, was all about asking questions. A new study by researchers at Harvard University says people who ask more questions, particularly follow-up questions, are perceived as more likeable. Asking questions makes them seem curious, attentive and responsive. We like people more who ask us questions rather than just answering them and talking about themselves.
Speech-language pathologists know the importance of asking questions in conversational interactions. They also know people with social communication disorders—such as those with autism—might experience more challenges in asking questions.
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Asking questions involves social reciprocity—taking turns in conversation, for example—a pragmatic language skill that SLPs often include in language goals. Follow-up questions demonstrate active listening skills because the question has to relate to a speaker’s message. Individuals with social communication disorders often have problems taking the perspective of another person. They need help linking what they say (comments or questions) to what another speaker says.
Asking what, who and where questions emerges in children around 1 or 2 years old. Asking why questions is a more complex language skill, which typically develops between 2 to 3 years. Children start to ask when and how questions at 3 or 4 years.
Diane Paul, PhD, CCC-SLP, is ASHA director of clinical issues in speech-language pathology. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 4, Fluency and Fluency Disorders; and 12, Augmentative and Alternative Communication. firstname.lastname@example.org.