Living with my own echo.
One thing that most parents are well aware of, is to be careful what you say around their children. Most parents also have a funny story about some word their child picked up and started repeating. For parents of children with autism, this is even more true. And in this post, I’ll talk about a few funny stories of my twins picking up a phrase or two.
Echolalia is an interesting trait that some children with autism have. Despite being identical twins that have the exact same DNA, only one of the twins has echolalia. For those unfamiliar with it. As WebMD.com defines it, “Echolalia is the repetition or echoing of words or sounds that you hear someone else say. It is an important step for language development in children.” (Brennan, 2021). Due to the nature of autism, some children carry this method of learning language beyond the first stages of language development. Sometimes even persisting throughout their entire life. My twin sons, Eli and Logan are almost four years old. They did have some delays with speech, but due to my own autism, I was very aware early on of their autism, and my wife and I sought out support services for them.
Eli has quite the case of Echolalia. One recent example of this was over dinner last week. My wife had finished dinner and was sitting in the den about 4 feet away from the rest of us that were still eating dinner. My wife is four months pregnant and has developed the usual forgetfulness many refer to as “pregnancy brain.” Her mother asked a playful rhetorical question. “Because I suck at life.” was my wife’s playful response. However, Eli latched onto that phrase and continued to play with his blocks while repeating “suck at life.” However, the fun doesn’t end there. One of my favorite moments of Eli’s echolalia came out of singing songs with him. When we sing a song, regardless of whether it is the ABC’s, Bingo, or Itsy Bitsy Spider almost every time without fail Eli pays homage to Milli Vanilli and will stick to one line for anywhere from 15 seconds on up to a few minutes. I’ve found it is when he is playing with a toy while singing that he will latch on to one line of the song and repeat it until he finishes the task he is on. Then he’ll continue the song right on to the end once he’s finished playing or building with his toys.
Logan, on the other hand, has a more traditional case of mimicking what he hears. It began when Logan was about three and a half. He started saying “Oh, come on!” and throwing his arms and chest forward quite dramatically. As you can imagine this was usually in response to not getting his way with something. My wife and I racked our brains for months trying to figure out where he got this from. One day, it almost hit us. No, really, a car cut us off in traffic and my wife who was driving says, “Oh, come on!” and lifted her arms up off the wheel, Almost immediately Logan repeated the phrase and threw his arms up. What was funny is one day while he was in the bathroom. I was in the den and heard him say that phrase again. Apparently, he was frustrated with having to go potty and was letting it know that he was not happy about it. Then I heard the thunk. I get up to check on him, and from what I could gather from him, He threw his arms up when he said “Oh, come on!” and lost his balance causing him to fall off of the potty chair.
So as you can see, children with autism really aren’t so different from other children. They do just as many funny things, maybe even a little more. If anything, it’s just a different flavor of fun that takes a bit of getting used to. To any other parents of children with autism, I offer this nugget. Embrace these moments of fun and silliness. Because it is these moments that help us to stay strong and support them as best we can when the road gets tough.
Brennan, D. (Ed.). (2021, October 25). Echolalia: Causes, symptoms, treatment, and more. WebMD. Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/parenting/what-is-echolalia