4 Jun 2008

Words and meaning

We had a new carpet fitted on the stairs. The old one, sort of sand coloured, was irreparably stained with poster paint, oxtail soup, hot chocolate, yogurt and who knows what else. There was a fair bit of banging and bashing during the fitting process. Duncan renamed his "rocket" cupboard under the stairs the "safe place" and spend most of the time in there, popping out every so often to monitor progress.

He has enjoyed riding his fancy, new bike outside our house. As I was watching him yesterday, he tumbled over while he was turning. He had been just walking and pushing the bike so he didn't hurt himself, but I helped him get the bike straight again, and he said, "It was embarrassing." Then as he pushed off again, he called out, "OK, lets's go again!" Wow, when did he learn about embarrassment!

I noted before that he has been repeating what we say. I only just realised that it's what is referred to in the autism books as echolalia. When I first read about it as one of the common traits of autism, my thoughts were "if only my child would say anything!" Duncan was then what is described as non-verbal. Today I looked at some NAS information on echolalia:
Echolalia ("parroting")
This is when a child repeats what they have heard rather than giving an appropriate response to what has been said to them. For example:

Mother: "Hello Tommy"
Tommy: "Hello Tommy"

When a child is using echolalia they are copying speech alone and showing no understanding of what has been said to them. Therefore it is most likely that the echolalia is not being used to show communicative intent.

I don't think this is the case with Duncan. When he repeats what we say, I think he is engaging, and communicating that he is part of the conversation. He is also, I think, trying to improve his vocabulary and pronunciation.

He is also now commonly reversing his pronouns, like asking me to "put your shoes on" when he needs help with his trainers. Again, I'm delighted that he has progressed to being able to communicate so well and am confident that he, like his siblings, will eventually figure out this difficult aspect of grammar.

One thing he does communicate frequently these days, in perfect English, and to my delight, is an emotion I had been told he would never be able to express without x,y or z expensive therapy. Every day, many times, he is unknowingly breaking down stereotypes when he tells me "I love you Mummy." I don't think I'm breaking any stereotypes, but I always answer with a huge grin, "I love you too Duncan."


Bev said...

You're breaking a big one, Sharon. At least from what I've heard, you are supposed to be devastated, or something like that. And here you are not only being happy, but recognizing that echolalia is communication? Ticket.

abfh said...

Hi Sharon. I'm glad Duncan wasn't bothered by the new carpet; it looks like he thought it was a big adventure. That goes to show you've made him feel safe at home.

Did you read my post last year on scripted language as a form of metaphor?

On Metaphor and Culture

It was a follow-up to a discussion of communication by Bev.

Bonnie said...

Echolalia I've been told by many is actually a good thing as far as speech progression goes. My son had it for quite a long time too and still at age 9 will repeat a greeting or something someone says to him if he isn't really paying attention. I think echolalia as you said is a way of storing up words. I too treasure hearing "I love you mommy", especially spontaneously. Lovely entry today!

Sharon McDaid said...

I'd not thought of that Bev! I'd forgotten how it's almost always portrayed that autism is such a terrible thing for mothers to have to put up with.

Abfh, it's nice that he has taken to this little spot as somewhere to go and hide when he feels to need to. The carpet doesn't bother him (he likes the plush feel) but the noise the fitter made was a bit upsetting.
I'll re-read the post you mention.

Bonnie D, I have no hesitation in recognising how crucial echolalia has been for Duncan's development of speech. Virtually all his speech even now, is from scripts, But he uses these in context.
There's just something special about those 3 little words, but even before he could say it, I knew he felt it!

mjsuperfan said...

We absolutely love echolalia at our house! Sometimes it's for my sons' own enjoyment, but sometimes it does have to do with what's going on (or so I like to think).

One son is doing a lot of "scripting", and the other one has just started to echo words. I have to admit, I get him to echo back the word "mommy", just to hear him say it.

I'm sure Duncan's on the path to more spontaneous speech!

Anonymous said...

Little Duncan sounds like a lovely little gentleman. And he obviously loves his mummy very much too.