Posts tagged ‘echolalia’

A way with words

There was a time when we thought C might never make noise or speak. When he was a newborn, I remember telling my mother that I would never complain about his crying if he could just actually do it. At the time, he was on a ventilator, and we couldn’t hear his “voice.”  I wasn’t convinced yet that C would actually live, so suddenly a screaming baby seemed like a wonderful thing.

Of course, C did live, and once he had the tube out of his throat he made his voice known. But it was years later when we wondered if he’d ever really speak. I prayed to hear his voice, only this time in a different form: words. I wanted to hear words. Shortly before his second birthday, he said, “MAH” (translation: “MORE”), and celebration followed.

It was a long and painful journey from “MAH” to words and then to sentences and then to spontaneous speech. C was about six years old before the echolalia became unnoticeable to all but those of us closest to him. Then people commented on what an interesting vocabulary he had when he said old fashioned things like, “Good grief” (Charlie Brown); or quirky things like, “Save money, live better” (Walmart slogan).

All these years later, we have a kid who rarely closes his mouth. His constant stream of words, even while asleep, changed the joy I felt when he first spoke them into craving any moment of peace and quiet I could find.

Yet missing from C’s language was the vocabulary of compassion. I didn’t realize how much it was missing until I realized he all of a sudden seemed to acquire it. Last week, when I suggested to him that perhaps it was vital to have all the facts about something important before relaying it to us as truth, he said, “You’re right Mom. Thanks for telling me that as I wouldn’t have known how it impacted you.”

Ho. Ly. Cow. A. Bunga. I about fell out of my chair. I have never heard words like that from C. Ever. And I’m hearing things like that more and more when I talk with him. I find myself believing there might be change when he returns home in a quick six weeks. Could it be real? Only time will tell, of course, and I admit to being skittish about getting my hopes up too much. Still, there is a glimmer there of something we have never heard in his words, and hopefully his actions will follow.

It is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

February 4, 2019 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

Thoughts on Uncle T & Aunt J leaving…

…to go back from whence they came…


I agree, C, I agree.

September 8, 2008 at 5:42 am 5 comments

What if?

     Whenever I see those shows where someone has achieved something wonderful, I always wait for the inevitable question that follows. “What was the best advice your mother gave you?” I’m not sure how I’d answer that question, because my mother wasn’t full of platitudes with me like I seem to be with C. It would probably not thrill my Mom that the thing I remember her saying the most was, “What price beauty?” This was usually in response to my complaining about the discomfort of panty hose or high heels, two things I no longer own in adulthood. And she was, for the most part, joking. Yet I’m sure she’d just keel over if, as I’m being interviewed by CNN for brokering world peace, the reporter asked me what great advice my Mother gave me and I shared that one with the world.

     Lately, C is using those platitudes in his famous echolalic way. He uses them appropriately, but he’s applying them to everyone but himself. Today, to his hab worker as they were throwing a frisbee in the pool, he said, “Everyone’s good at different things.” This was after she told C she wasn’t good at frisbee. In the next breath it was, “You have to try new things,” when she refused to go down the slide that has a weight limit of 60 pounds.

     My latest saying to him is in response to his current mode of questioning. “What if?” is his question of choice, which likely taps into his constant worrying. This breaks my heart because nothing I say can seem to ease the worry for him. “What if a dog goes to his bowl and there’s nothing to eat?” “What if we get to camp 5 minutes late?” “What if the sky falls down?” All legitimate questions, yet I can rarely contain my desire to say the most pointlessly true statement of “How about we worry about what’s happening right now?”

     I’m pretty sure that one is going to come back to haunt me, and I know where and when it will. Around the second week of school, when we’re working on homework for the upcoming week, my words will be repeated back to me. Again. And again. And probably again. I will remind myself (again) to think ahead before so carelessly spitting out the platitudes.

July 9, 2008 at 8:39 pm 3 comments

Imagine that!

     Imaginary play can be slow to develop in autistic children. Like C’s language of echolalia (repeating things he’d heard elsewhere), he seemed, for a long time, only to play in scenarios taken from somewhere else. He would painstakingly recreate a Thomas the Train episode with his toy engines, no small feat in and of itself, truth be told.

     Slowly, however, signs of imagination in his play emerged. While he was and is still rooted in a very concrete world, I see moments of creativity and even downright exaggeration appearing in his thoughts. “There was a fly in my room. Pause. It was THIS big. (Imagine the gesture from the guy telling the fish story inserted here.) I shoo-ded it out of my room. It almost broked the window going outside.”

     I laughed out loud at this one. Laughed because, well, it was funny, and laughed because he was so earnest while telling his tall tale. I could picture him years from now shooting the breeze with the guys and perhaps even getting away with it.

     And that, I say with delight, is THIS BIG.

April 22, 2008 at 10:35 am 2 comments


Mommy, can we go to the Liberty of Statue?

If you get really sick, do you have to go to the hopsickle?

 Are you putting that in the garbage despoil?

When I grow up, will you go up to Heaven with me to pick out my babies?

Mommy, you’re my favorite person in our fam-i-ly. Daddy, are you going to cry?

Did you know there’s sheila-monsters (gila monsters) in the desert?

At lunch today they had beef patty on bun.

….(on the way into the bathroom)…then we had rocket math and I got 37 problems right. WOW! THAT’S THE BIGGEST POOP I EVER SEEN!

When I grow up and go to work, will you drive me? Because I don’t know how to get there.

February 26, 2008 at 4:04 am 9 comments

The Gift

     C spoke his first word two weeks before his second birthday. He said “more.” We expected additional words to come quickly, but it took another painful year before he added more than a few words. Then, when he was 3 1/2, his language exploded and all of a sudden he had tons of words. Like many children with autism, he repeated phrases and sentences he had heard elsewhere (echolalia). He often used the phrases and sentences in the appropriate situations, but they were all parroted back to us in exactly the way they had previously been spoken by someone else. That someone else was either a family member, a tv commercial, or a cartoon character. It really was quite amazing that he used the words in the correct social situation, which led people to believe he had more language than he did. He never said anything spontaneously, and there were certainly no back and forth conversations.

     I remember his first “creative” conversation vividly. We were in Target, and I was buying wrapping paper for his upcoming fourth birthday. I was talking my way through the store in the way I usually did with him – constantly trying to engage him in a real conversation. I told him the birthday paper was for wrapping all of his birthday presents. He was silent for a few moments before he looked through the tube of paper and said, “But Mommy, there’s no presents in there!” I was stunned, and walked around the rest of the store in gleeful, tearful oblivion.

February 8, 2008 at 12:34 am 2 comments

It’s all autism, all the time.

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