|Ashi as a non-verbal 3 year old.|
Echolalia is actually a unique form of communication commonly used by autists. If you've heard your young child constantly and incessantly repeat what he has picked up from various sources, your autist is using echolalia.
Strings of words can range from just one word to an entire poem; or even a sermon heard at church to an entire full length movie! Many autists will even use the exact tone(s) of voice(s) if the piece is from a source they listened to. Fascinating!
Here's some ways we've used echolalia to not only help our daughter, but also to help instill our values. You can take, tweak, or toss these tips based on your own needs and values.
|Reading out loud to baby brother Izaiah at age 5|
Instead of TV, we read gazillions of books, watched educational videos and children's movies. We also read the Bible and poetry. This is the data that was stored in my daughter's head when she began using echolalia, thankfully(!) because they will do it in public.
Our autist craves and is comforted by reading and memorizing scores of information. Teaching her to use a mouse and how to navigate the internet allows her to use parent approved websites to constantly feed that need. The more data she stores, the more likely she is to have something that she can retrieve during a conversation.
|Reading to Guinea Pigs age 6|
|Practicing with the mouse at age 4 1/2|
Echolalia is so intriguing; not only does memorizing and repeating help with language, communication, and social skills, an autist may also use it like stimming. It can provide great comfort or can be a tell-tale warning sign that your autist may be nervous or frustrated.
|Ashi at her own laptop age 7|
Echolalia can also look like this:
Parent asks, "Would you like some milk?"
Child echoes, "Would you like some milk?"
Instead of answering your question, your child may wander ( in his mind) from a glass of milk to thinking about glass, sand, the beach; or liquid, cows, farms, tractors; or white, primary colors, prisms, rainbows. It is my opinion that he is repeating your question in an attempt to stay focused on the question and not go down all those tangents, but he gets stuck on the question and can't quite get to the answer.
So, try asking like this: "Would you like milk, Yes or no?" This cuts off his bombarding thoughts because his answer is scripted for him, "Yes or no." He still gets to choose, but this will help him stay focused on whether or not he wants milk instead of thinking about the tractor at the farm with the cow who makes the milk.
Stating your questions this way is also modelling conversation. You ask the question and made it simple to answer by having 2 scripted options, and most importantly, you've just had a dialogue with your autist! Once he has mastered this type of dialogue, he can baby step to a more complex conversation.
See, living in a cave isn't so bad afterall! See, living in a cave isn't so bad afterall! See, living in a cave isn't so bad afterall! See, living in a cave isn't so bad afterall! See, living in a cave......
Annie Eskeldson writes for parents of young autists. Her own autist was non-verbal past the age of 4. Now at age 7, she will not be quiet! The greatest tools were lots of books, the computer, a load of patience, practice and a mountain of love. It took Ashi about a year of answering simple "yes or no questions" before moving on to more complex dialogue. She still uses echolalia daily. Annie counted the phrase "We want Morphin Marty, yes we do!" repeated 198 times on the way to Wal-Mart one afternoon.
Annie has 2 published children's books about autism that also comfort the parent. They can be found at http://www.authorannie.com/ Annie has a 3rd book intended to be released by Thanksgiving this year.