Life, Autism, Disability, and More

Tag Archives: echolalia

What Is EcholaliaA few days ago, we were at the comic book store, and Simon came up to me.

“Should we give the Indians food?” he asked.

For those who don’t know it, he was referring to the really horrible (and really funny, but not in the way they intended) Charlie Brown Mayflower episode.

“Yes, we should feed the Indians. Otherwise they’ll be hungry, right?” I said. I always respond to Simon’s echolalia because…well, why not?

He looked at me like I was an idiot and repeated himself, “Should we give the Indians food?”

I stopped and looked at him.

“Do *you* want food?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yes.”

Score: One for Simon, zero for mom.

This is why echolalia can be so valuable. Simon might not know how to come up to me and tell me that he wants to get food, but he can provide lines from a show that gets to it in a round-about way. And I’m good with that.

Yes, I’d love Simon to be able to communicate perfectly. I’d love for his communication to even be at a four-year-old level where he could straight out say, “Hey, I’m hungry!” But that isn’t happening yet, and that’s okay. At least we’ve been moving in the right direction.

So to everyone who thinks that echolalia is pointless or annoying, I want you to consider all the times that you’ve quoted song lyrics or the Simpsons to get your purpose across. It’s just another form of communication.

 

Charlie Brown Mayflower episode for your viewing pleasure (or pain):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PZE6SNIIr8

 

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Disco Dance.  Image by Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net

Disco Dance. Image by Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net

REALLY, I SWEAR, THERE IS NOT A DANCE AT THE HIGH SCHOOL.

THERE IS NO DANCE.

NO DANCE.

NO, NO SPECIAL OLYMPICS DANCE.

REALLY.

STOP LOOKING AT THE CALENDAR. THERE ISN’T A DANCE.

YES, WE WILL TELL YOU WHEN THERE IS A DANCE.

NO, THERE IS NO DANCE RIGHT NOW.

HONEST, THERE ISN’T A DANCE.

NO DANCE.

THERE’S NOTHING TO GET UPSET ABOUT. YOU DON’T NEED TO CRY.

(By the way, there is no dance, at least not yet, but apparently someone has gotten it into his mind that the flyer from yesterday about the parent meeting was about a dance and we are hiding this magic dance from him. Hopefully by tomorrow we can stop repeating ourselves…)


Simon has begun re-watching episodes of “Oswald” on his iPad mini.  He loves using Amazon’s streaming videos because he can watch so many cartoons and shows that he likes, and he is in complete control of it.  He wanders around with it, watching them on the couch, on the floor, wherever he goes. 

For those who are not familiar with “Oswald,” Oswald is an octopus that has a pet dog (Weenie) and a number of friends, including a penguin (Henry) and a flower (Daisy).   [Fun Fact: Oswald is voiced by Fred Savage! Yes, that Fred Savage!]

Anyway, so Simon has gotten into the show again in a big way.  He used to watch it a lot, but then stopped.  Now he really loves it. Watches an episode a day, at least.

Well, in one of the episodes, Oswald’s dog get dirty and needs a bath.  And, being a dog, does not want to take a bath.  Oswald has to find him and force him to take a bath.

Nothing funny yet, right?

Now let’s remember echolalia. 

I was gone to Tampa for the residency period of my MFA.  My husband took Simon to the store.  Simon walked around, repeating only certain lines from the show.  Those lines?

“Weenie’s dirty.  Weenie needs to take a bath.”

Now imagine how you would react to an 11-year-old boy walking around saying that.  Repeatedly.  Apparently there were a number of very strange looks.

My husband tried to mitigate the strangeness by filling in the blanks, “Yes, Oswald’s dog, Weenie, is dirty, and he does need to take a bath.”

But still…


Diner Life! by Seeman via morgueFile

Diner Life! by Seeman via morgueFile

There’s a restaurant that we love going to, but it has a sign on the door, stating that parents should keep their children seated [under control] for the sake of other patrons.  It’s a nice restaurant.  Good food.  Fancy food.  Thai food.  We like going there.  But we can only go there at night because we know that, during the day, we’d bring Simon, and he would not stay in his seat, and he would not care about the other patrons.  But…cell phones and noisy drunks are allowed.

Now, I’m not trying to say anything bad about this restaurant.  Simon wouldn’t like their food, anyway, and I believe that restaurants can choose to avoid loud, noisy children – even if we have and love kids, we all need to get away sooner or later.

So instead of going to a restaurant like that when we feel the urge to eat out, we go to a decidedly family (and cheap or cheap-ish) restaurant like Denny’s.

Ah, Denny’s!  Home of the $2/$4/$6 menu, shot glasses of syrup, and friers using the fat from their opening day!

Not that I’m complaining.  I like Denny’s.  My husband likes Denny’s.  And, most importantly, Simon likes Denny’s.

When we go there, though, we start thinking about how to minimize Simon’s impact on tables around us.  We try to keep him from touching people in the next booth.  We remind him to use his inside voice.  We distract him with drawing and writing.  Anything we can think of to avoid the dreaded stares that, of course, I always want to respond to by shouting, “It’s Denny’s!  It’s not a 5-star restaurant!  It’s not a library!”  (But I don’t.)  (I just stare back.)

We went to Denny’s on New Year’s Day for a late lunch and special treat for Simon since I had to fly out the next day for a residency for school.

At first, we were seated by ourselves – empty booths on both sides – and a large, loud table full of a big family nearby.  All going swimmingly.  Until they sat an older couple in the booth behind us.  Simon had been sitting with his arm over the booth, which we convinced him to move, but since our food hadn’t arrived yet, he was busily repeating an episode of some TV show – but just his favorite scene, of course, completely out of context, and over and over and over again like a record with a scratch in it.

I was waiting for one of them to complain.  They just had the right vibe of “how dare a child be a child in public!” (yeah, you know that vibe, right?).  But they didn’t.  And then it happened.  The guy’s cell phone went off.

“HELLO? HELLO!  YES, WE’RE AT DENNY’S…”

And I’m sure there was more to the conversation, but I tuned it out, the same way I tune out loud children or annoying noise. 

But it made me wonder.  Which is worse – people who talk loudly on cell phones in public or echolalia?

In both cases, you’re only hearing one side of a conversation.  In both cases, you may have absolutely no idea what’s actually going on.  And in both cases, the person talking is oblivious (or mostly oblivious) to the effect he/she is having on those in the vicinity.

There is one difference, though.  With echolalia, it’s not on purpose.  It may not even be controllable.  It just happens.  No rudeness or annoyance intended.

So stop giving nasty looks to the kid reciting Blue’s Clues and hold those looks for the loud cell phone users or drunks.  Cause they deserve it a whole lot more.