It's very, very hard to explain Janey's talking to anyone who hasn't heard her, and even people who have heard her, but only occasionally or in certain settings, don't really get a complete view of how she talks. I tried today to write down everything she said. I missed a lot, but I captured a bit. Her speech is divided into I'd say 4 categories. One is actually talking, to ask for something or give or get information (mostly the asking). One is direct echolalia, something repeated right after she hears it, usually exactly, but sometimes a little altered. One is delayed echolalia, a phrase or saying from a video or something she's heard someone say a lot. And the fourth isn't really talking, but spontaneous singing. The fourth could be considered part of the delayed echolalia, but it seems different to me. Here's some examples---
First, the actual talking
I want you to get me soda
I want tuna
I want mayonnaise
I want pizza.
That's it, for a whole day. I'm sure there must have been a little more, but not much. You can see it's all food requests. There weren't reversed pronouns today, and it was mostly full sentences, but not exactly a huge amount of conversation.
Next, the direct echolalia
Do you remember that now?
Oh, Janey, chimpanzee!
Go Patriots! (the Patriots play a big game today!)
But you don't open the oven. That's too naughty.
Mostly just repeated, but the oven one had the "that's too naughty" added on by her.
Now, the big one---delayed echolalia
A storybook? And you call that a present? (from Beauty and the Beast Enchanted Christmas)
Well, I'm not going anywhere. I'm exhausted. It's best that I say here, in case they come back (Kipper)
Who is eating my cake? It's Arnold! (Kipper again)
Don't hit! Don't hit her! That's very naughty! (I'm not sure when I said that, but I am pretty sure I did)
Do I look weird? Not weird at all. But you look kind of different, in a cool way (Yo Gabba Gabba)
Do you happen to know whose bowl you're eating? MINE! (from a sing-a-long video, spoken part)
So mostly videos, with the no hitting thrown in. That could be a video too, I'm thinking, but I don't recognize it.
Then the singing
"Stand by Me"
"There's a Hole in the Bucket"
"You're a Grand Old Flag"
"Eensy Weensy Spider"
The singing is usually the whole first verse of a song, sometimes more, right in tune and nice and loud.
So....some days Janey talks a lot, but she never says a lot that's actually communication. Once in a while, the delayed echolalia could be cut and paste type talking, saying something she wants to say. That might have been the case with the "I'm exhausted" today, or the hitting being naughty, but usually, it seems more like random playbacks of phrases stored in her head.
There's a lot that Janey's speech almost never has. She almost never answers questions, at least without a ton of prompting, and then they are only fact type questions like "What's your name?" or "What shape is that?" She almost never just talks about things, like commenting on the cats, or snow, or what she is doing. She never has conversational volleys, where we talk back and forth. If you took away the singing and different types of echolalia, her talking would basically be her asking for food, videos and once in a while, things like a bath or crayons.
I've read lots of times that it's promising when autistic kids have echolalia, that it's a good sign that they will speech more in the future. But Janey is eight, and I don't think she's improving. If I read back on old blog entries here, I think it could be argued she's talking real language less overall. It's frustrating. I wish there were more literature out there about echolalia. Why do some kids with autism have it and some not? Does it have a meaning? How should I respond to it? I'd love a book about echolalia, or at least a lengthy article! More than anything, I'd like a book specifically about Janey. I've said that before. The handbook to her, her speaking and rest of her, doesn't exist. Or else I'm writing it, and I don't feel up to it, some days.