Echolalia and Autism: Fun times

by J

Before S became verbal, communication was mostly in the form of gestures and my super-hero ability to mind read. It seemed that most days, my job as mommy was either preventing a meltdown or racing to figure out how to stop one. And, since most of his meltdowns were caused by his lack of ability to communicate with us, it was frustrating and heartbreaking to all involved. My heart goes out to any family struggling to communicate with a non-verbal child.

After the verbal explosion, a whole new world of communication was opened, and for that, I will be eternally grateful. I can honestly say that I don’t think I will ever tire of hearing my sweet little boy’s voice. I don’t think I will ever be annoyed by the 100th “moooommmmy” when he wants something. And, I simply can’t imagine never wanting to have a conversation with him- because right now, that is something I’d love more than anything.

You see, while S is great at communicating his needs and likes, his conversations are not very meaningful… they really aren’t even conversations as much as they are statements. “I like french toast” or “I want juice” is just a statement. Does it have meaning? Sure! Is it a conversation piece? Nope.

With the verbal explosion, S has developed echolalia. Echolalia is basically the parroting of words and phrases heard by others. S will hear me say “Hi S” and instead of saying “Hi Mommy”, he will say, “Hi S”, just repeating what he has heard me say. Often, when we ask him a question that has two options, we have to put the least valuable option last in an attempt to get him to not parrot his answer. For instance, “Do you want to go to the playground or take a nap?” Sometimes, he will just say “take a nap”, not because that is what he wants, but because that is the last thing we said to him. It is obvious, as he grabs his coat and heads to the door, that he wants to go to the playground.

So, next week, S will be observed by a Speech and Language Pathologist. She will come to observe him in class and then hopefully be able to give me and his teachers some pointers on how we can help S further develop his language skills.

I know I long for the day when I can have a meaningful conversation with our boy. He is so sweet, and so smart and I just know that there are so many thoughts going on in his little head. I can’t wait to hear all about them!