Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘echolalia

The Best Presents

with 18 comments

We pulled into the driveway, and the kids immediately noticed that their car was parked outside, instead of in the garage.  For your Average Joe, this would pass without comment, but our kids are neither average, nor Joes (or Jos for that matter).

Our neighbours (and friends) have been away on R&R travel for the last few weeks.  In a clear case of out of sight, out of mind, this has passed without comment by either child.  I was a little surprised that Pudding, in particular, never questioned their whereabouts.  One of her favourite things is “feeding the bunnies”, which is actually a nefarious scheme by Pudding to explore their home and garden, with the most cursory of visits to the actual rabbits.  The lady of the house, Ms. M, very generously accommodates these inspections by Pudding, but we hadn’t seen her since the family returned from their trip.

Cubby: That’s Ms. M’s car, Mummy, she’s back!

Pudding: I want to go see her.  Want to go see Ms. M.

Me: Well, we can see her on Friday- she is having a party and we’re invited.

Pudding: She needs a cake, Mummy, Hello Kitty cake.

Cubby: And candles too!

Pudding: She needs a present, Mummy!

Me: It isn’t a birthday party, just a party.

Pudding: She needs a present, Mummy!  The best presents of all come from the heart.*

*Yep, this is echolalia- a line from a Little People DVD.  Fisher-Price includes one of these with their Little People toys- a horror of claymation and nonsensical storylines masquerading as entertainment, offering a smug moralistic message at the end of every irritating featurette.  The kids, of course, adore it.

Not for the first time, I’m amazed at how she makes the most of things.  She has this incredibly challenging way of learning language, but she manages to memorize a snippet, filter it, store it, and then reproduce it in an effort to communicate on our terms.  Playing it back from the heart.

The best presents of all come from the heart.  Damn…we’ve watched so much Little People that my post has turned into an episode, complete with smug moralistic message at the end.  Now all I need is to start singing the theme tune in an Aaron Neville voice.  Come to think of it, that would make the perfect present for Ms. M at her party…

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Echo Echolalia

with 12 comments

Pudding has a new script as we drive in the car.  She looks out of the window at the buildings.  When she sees a house, she repeats:

That’s a house, and you remember this house.

And then we pass another house, and she’ll say it again:

That’s a house, and you remember this house.

Every time we pass a house.  Every time.  Sometimes we pass buildings that aren’t houses, and she demands to know what they are.  It doesn’t matter if I’m driving in rush hour traffic with idiots on their phones who don’t look when they change lanes (calm down, Spectrummy Mummy); if we pass a building and she doesn’t know what it is, that must be rectified.  Luckily she has that awesome memory on her, and a near GPS-like mapping skill, so once she has been told it is a hotel, or a mall, and then checked on the veracity of that a subsequent time, she is cool.

That’s a house, and you remember this house.  That’s a house.  That’s a house.  That’s a hotel.  That’s a coffee shop.

As I imagine it, she is talking through adding it to her mental map.  Then each time, checking that map hasn’t changed, and adding a little more.  It is pretty cool that she finds ways to make her world more ordered, so I don’t get too irritated by it, even though we spent a lot of time working on my motor skills.

Until Cubby does it too.

At first he would just immediately repeat everything she said, to Pudding’s great delight.

That’s a house.  (That’s a house).  That’s a house, and you remember this house.  (That’s a house and you remember this house).

The two of them were greatly amused by this game of Driving Mama Crazy.  But then Cubby started doing it when Pudding wasn’t around too.  Using the exact same words as his sister.  Echolalia of echolalia.  I can generally distract him, but left to his own devices, he repeats the script at length throughout the journey.  He repeats at other times too, but not consistently.

Does he have echolalia?  Does his brain work in the same tape recorder way?  Cubby has advanced language skills for his age, but he doesn’t always use his words socially or flexibly.  Does echolalia fill a gap when he doesn’t have the skills to communicate effectively?  At times echolalia seems to perform the same function as it does for Pudding.

Or is is something else?  Is echolalia normal to him because that is what he has heard all his life from his big sister?  Is it reinforced by her laughter and encouragement?  If Pudding was no longer echolaic, would it die away with him too?

All these things pass through my mind whenever we’re in the car together.  Is history repeating itself, or is is just my boy repeating my girl’s words?  Echo echolalia.  And can I tell myself that he is merely copying all those spectrummy behaviors that we see in him now?  She spins in circles, flaps her hands, and has meltdowns, so why shouldn’t he?  But what about the spinning wheels, his difficulty with transitions, the way he gets overwhelmed when there are more than a couple of kids around?  These are things that Pudding doesn’t do.  It is so hard to tell what actions are *his* and what are a result of being a younger sibling in our home.

Certainly this afternoon I’ll be thinking about these things some more, as I drive my grey-area kid to his IEP eligibility meeting.  And yes, it is crazy that we’re going through this Incredibly Enervating Process again weeks before we move to another continent.  But if we’re going to have a repetition of what happened last time we moved, I’m going to be prepared for it.

 

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

June 9, 2011 at 7:23 am

Echo, uh-oh

with 14 comments

Pudding chatters all day long. There are certain times, like going to the library, or when I’m putting her brother to bed, or in the early hours of the morning, when I wish she was quiet. I instantly regret such a thought, of course, because speech is such a gift and we’re incredibly lucky to have an abundance, rather than an absence of her language.

Like, oh, just about everything about Pudding, her language is atypical. This was the first thing I noticed in the symptoms that eventually led to her diagnosis. I noticed that while she spoke in long sentences, she couldn’t make conversation. And I noticed that she repeated. A lot. No, even more than that. She had echolalia. She still does, in fact, but it is slightly different in some ways. Echolalia is the repetition of another person’s speech. It can be immediate and delayed. All children go through a phase of echolalia, but verbal children with ASDs go through this period for much longer than children who are typically developing.

Uh-oh, what happened?” Once upon a time, someone (probably me) uttered those words upon seeing a mess, and Pudding’s brain recorded it for future use. Now any time there is a similar situation, this exact phrase is her way of calling attention to it. Her language is not yet flexible enough to tell me what happened spontaneously. Instead, we do a little dance where she asks the question, I repeat it back to her, and then she answers. If I’m patient and attentive, I coach her through the correct way of getting my attention and giving me the information. But because I know, I know, that when she utters that phrase it is because she has done something she knows she shouldn’t, and in my anger, my coaching slips away.

She has slightly modified this to, “What happened to me?” in order to relate that she has fallen down and hurt herself.  This seems to be the way she learns language; using the memorized phrase, then adapts it to her situation.  Doing this is called functional echolalia.  For a long time it formed the bulk of Pudding’s communication, and for an inflexible form of language, it works surprisingly well.  I learned what she was trying to convey, and if her language abilities had ended there, I’d still be grateful that we could have a back-and-forth exchange.

As she is so familiar with the question-answer format, this is her main way of gaining attention. It is predictable, and when your pragmatic skills are limited, predictable is safe. So if Pudding comes up to you and says: “What shape is that?”, she does not want you to tell her. She knew what a hexagon was before she was two, but this is the only way she knows to interact with you, and interaction is what she desperately seeks.  It is one of the things that makes us most hopeful about her future- she wants to be part of our world, as difficult as that might be.

Last year she had less spontaneous language use. If I asked her if she wanted an apple or an orange, she’d frequently respond with immediate echolalia: “Want a apple or orange“.  Other times she’d just repeat the last choice, then get mad if I offered her the orange instead of the apple.  Now she is able to make the correct choice, and even say “yes” which was a long time coming, though strangely enough, “no” was right on track.

More and more spontaneous language is emerging, but she still uses a lot of echolalia.  When she puts her own words together, it is like a tiny glimpse into the future.  Sometimes I get tricked, the way she recently used, “shall we leave?” to indicate she wanted to leave the mall, was also used to exit the park.  I’ve never heard her use “shall” in any other way, but she will, of course, as she assimilates the word into her vocabulary.

She still uses some delayed and non-functional echolalia, I think just because she likes the way the words sounds together, almost like a stim.  For instance, she likes to repeat the phrase “To the zoo“, but she seems to just like hearing it, she doesn’t have any communicative intent.  There are dozens of examples like this, but I don’t really see a correlation between anxiety and her use of them as has been suggested in some texts.  She just likes it, it feels good to her, so she continues to do it.  Spectrummy Daddy and his friends do this with lines from movies too, so it might be something that is here to stay.  It might even perform a social bonding function, assuming others share the same interests.

Many children with delayed echolalia quote lines from TV or movies, but Pudding sticks to other people’s words, and books.  She has entire books memorized, and she could deceive you into thinking she was reading the whole thing, she is fluent, and matches the picture up to the words.  In reality she can read a few words, but nothing like the amount she has stored in her tape recorder brain.  It is truly a marvel.  I’m addicted to everything that comes out of her mouth, created or repeated; except, of course: “Uh-oh, what happened?”,  that I could go without hearing for a few days!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 1, 2010 at 7:42 am