We’ve been saying for a couple years that one of the most noticeable “autism” things is his echolalia. It gets in the way of normal conversation, socializing and education. It is so much harder to do those things when you just have to sing Arthur songs (his most recent phase) or repeat favorite books all day.
I can understand a lot of things about the differences from Pookie and other kids but the echolalia is one that I just can’t get inside his head enough to understand. We try to work with it as much as possible and play with it when appropriate and we try to ignore it when it really seems necessary but I don’t think we will ever understand it.
In IEP meetings, the biggest factor keeping him out of normal classrooms is the echolalia. He cannot keep quiet for long enough to not disrupt a classroom constantly. I would even go as far as to say that without the echolalia he would probably do fairly well in a normal classroom. He would have trouble answering questions when called on, but he would have very little trouble filling out the worksheets, writing on the board, reading the stories, doing the art projects, etc.
I have done some reading about echolalia (mostly things written by adults with echolalia) and the general thinking seems to be that it is there and it will be there until he is ready to start leaving it behind. And when he starts to leave it behind, it will still be there but he’ll just have better control over the appropriate times to use it.
We’ve decided to start working on teaching him that there are times when it is not appropriate.
Here are a few examples:
- Pookie has a clock that lights up when it is late enough for him to get out of bed. It is set for 6am. He wakes up between 5:30 and 5:45 on most days and starts singing/story telling in a fairly loud voice until the clock tells him to get out of bed.
- The rest of the family gets up at about 6:30am. Between 6am and 6:30am, Pookie sings/talks loudly on the main floor.
- While getting dressed for school, he sings/talks so much that he’ll stop dressing in the middle of putting on an item of clothing.
- During dinner, Pookie has frequently starts talking/singing enough that he stops eating until we remind him to start eating again.
- While watching TV, Pookie frequently talks/sings about things unrelated to the show he is watching.
I am working on making him realize that those are not good echolalia times of the day. He normally does a decent job of quieting down for a couple minutes when prompted. I’m hoping that he’ll start to understand that there are some times that are more appropriate for echolalia than others. If he can make that connection at home, it should be pretty easy to transition it to school and other away from home locations.
While typing this, I realized that what I need to do is make some kind of a sign or card that we can use when we do not want to hear the echolalia. That would make it much easier to convert to something that works for school and would make it a non-verbal prompt. Non-verbal prompts are better for several reasons with one of them being that it makes it easier for me to stay non-yelling when he gets mad about it.