Echolalia and the Classroom

by beagooddad on April 9, 2008

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We had a meeting with Pookie’s preschool teacher the other day. She wanted us to know before the IEP that she would in no way recommend Pookie be placed in a non-special ed classroom next year for kindergarten.

Her biggest concern was Pookie’s “attentiveness” and his echolalia which are actually very interrelated. Pookie often seems like he is not paying attention because he is so frequently “lost” in the echolalic scripts that make up his day.

Attentiveness and lost are actually interesting terms though.

It is very rare that Pookie is not paying attention, even while in the deepest of echolalic chatter and bouncy, hand-flipping stimming. It is shocking when you realize how much he is actually paying attention to during these moments and how well he can process that information and even respond to it.

Unless he doesn’t want to.

Sometimes he would prefer to get to the end of the song first. Or sometimes he just doesn’t want to go do what we or the teachers want him to do.

A typically developing child would be labeled stubborn and maybe get disciplined for not following orders. Pookie gets labeled as not being attentive and recommended to stay in special ed preschool.

Unfortunately, the echolalia has also increased recently. It always does while he is preparing for the next big development. Recently, he has been teaching himself to read, working on figuring out what is appropriate behavior on the bus, becoming interested in kids his own age and learning what kind of physical contact is allowed, and we are starting to work on learning that he is allowed to leave bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

That’s just a handful of all of the things we are seeing him learning these days. There is a ton of processing going on in his head right now which is very exciting for us. But, it does cause the echolalia to spike.

We have spent so much time working on getting Pookie to learn age appropriate life and communication skills. Now we need to figure out how to continue doing all of that and, in addition, start working on getting him to recognize his echolalia and start to be able to suppress it in situations where it will not be appropriate.

For example, on the playground, it should be fine. While sitting in a classroom taking a test, not fine.

Since getting this news, we’ve started spending a fair amount of energy on getting him aware that he is echoing and that we would like him to stop for the duration of what we are doing (like during story time or while working on a parent directed art project).

He seems to be doing a decent job of understanding what we are trying to get him to do even if he doesn’t agree that it makes any sense to be doing it. Hopefully, we can get it to carry over in the classroom before the IEP so that maybe we can get the teacher to change her mind a little.

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