ech·o·la·li·a (?k??-l??l?-?) noun: The immediate and involuntary repetition of words or phrases just spoken by others, often a symptom of autism or some types of schizophrenia.
This is the textbook definition. I would take exception to the “just spoken” part, as my daughter is capable of repeating conversations from years ago and scripting out television episodes that she hasn’t watched in ages. Much of her speech is derivative, and sometimes it feels like a 24/7 pub trivia contest around here as I try to figure out where her lines are from.
The TV cartoon quotes are kinda cute and pretty easy to identify. Quotes from commercials are wild cards and not always germane…like when she told her Dad this weekend that he had a saggy diaper.
Not unlike typical parents, we live in mortal fear of profanity. As much as I’d like to, I can’t blame Dora for everything. Then there are the less profane but just as damning lines that everyone within earshot knows came from you, like when my daughter yelled at me in the middle of a crowded park, “You’re making me mental!” Stay classy Mom.
But the best, as in the most useful, form of echolalia is when she is recounting things that happened during her school day. I get a daily note from school that relates the highlights of their activities and what goals they worked on and my daughter will answer direct questions about her day, but I don’t always get as many details as I would like.
So when I pick up on her saying the name of her teacher or a classmate, I definitely start listening in. Last week she was cracking herself up as she was “reminiscing” about something funny that happened at school that day. Her teacher’s name is Kristi. The rest of the kids names have been changed to protect the young and the pantless:
Hi Kristi. Hi Kristi. Hi Kristi. Hi Kristi. We only say hi once, Joey. NO NO NO Alex! Keep your pants on! When Josh gets upset, he loses his points. Matthew says “When’s the guitar?” STOP! We need to walk. Kristi says you cannot hit the teachers.
I learned more in that short little burst than I had from months of teacher’s notes.
Lynn Hudoba is the mother of a beautiful and amazing 6 year old girl who happens to have autism. She loves to write letters, emails, texts, tweets, memoirs, and blog posts at My Life As An Ungraceful, Unhinged, and Unwilling Draftee Into the Autism Army at www.autismarmymom.com
Ahhh, Echolalia….you wouldn’t believe what I’ve heard with echolalia! What have you heard?