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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Delayed Echolalia

Delayed echolalia is a fancy name for repeating back what has been heard at an earlier time. It's a huge part of Janey's talking---I'd say the majority of it. And I think it's what often makes people think there is a hidden world in there, that suddenly Janey or kids like her might all of a sudden talk in full, meaningful sentences. Because she DOES talk in full sentences---when she is engaging in delayed echolalia. It can be startling to hear even for me---all of a sudden, she's saying something complex, with emotion. This morning "I lost Polka. I'm terribly sorry, Grandpa!...Well, I'm proud of you, Angelina!" then "Do you think she needs a diaper change? You were supposed to be babysitting and you SAT on the egg?" "We came all this way to see the Pyramids!" All lines from assorted videos. They are said with tons of expression, with a clear tone and in a voice I don't hear at other times. Once in a long while, they are thrown out in appropriate situations, but I think often that's because she hears a key word that starts her off---we tell her to say she's sorry, and she recites a line about being sorry, for example.

I wonder if the d.e. (as a shortcut) is a placeholder sometimes when she isn't talking a lot otherwise. Lately her talking is at a very low ebb. Lots of crying, lots of single word demands, using a very few words. But also the d.e. all day. Maybe it keeps her able to say all the sounds, to use all the intonations, until the real talking kicks in again for a while. I don't mind it---it's interesting to hear, and a lot more bearable than all day whining. I hope it does serve some kind of purpose. If nothing else, it certainly is an illustration of how interesting the human mind is, and the human autistic mind.

1 comment:

Miz Kizzle said...

I used to teach autistic teens and I keep up with the doings in the "autistic community" by reading blogs. I found your blog by accident and I want to compliment you on your honesty. Autism isn't all rainbows and magic unicorns and you're not afraid to be real about your descriptions of life with a severely autistic child.
On the plus side, your daughter is beautiful and interesting. So many liittle girls these days are boringly intent in being evil to those they deem less popular -- that and trying to look like they're eighteen when they haven't hit puberty yet.
So yes, I understand "how you do it," to paraphrase one of your posts. It's simple: she's your child and you love her.
My theory about echolalia is that it's similar to the way most of us speak a foreign language that we learned in adulthood. For instance, I understand French MUCH better than I speak it and when I do speak French I tend to use the same phrases over and over, substituting weird combinations like "long shoe," when I mean "boot."
It gets even harder to make myself understood in French (or Spanish) when I'm stressed or self-conscious.
I think with autistic people, they comprehend many more things than we imagine; they just can't access the right responses.