Sunday, September 19, 2010

Just Keep Swimming

So, Ethan has a bit of this echolalia thing going in. He's repeating a lot of stuff back to me, verbatim, which isn't such a bad thing, unless it becomes excessive. He's also doing what I guess they call "scripting." He uses language in a memorized yet appropriate way.

Some kids on the spectrum will do stuff like quote entire scenes from movies or pull out a line they know from a TV show and use it in conversation. That's not what I'm talking about with Ethan; rather, he's taking phrases I often say and using them on his own. SO, every morning he wakes up and says, "An-NA, wake UP!" in a cute way, and no one except me would know that he says it in exactly the same way every morning, with the same intonation, my intonation. Every time we feed Zeke, he insists on "fresh water?" as well as food and then yells, "Zeeek! Come eat!"

An interesting byproduct to all of this is the realization that Ethan is a mirror of sorts of everything I say on a regular basis, day in and day out. He's a tape recorder. His words could betray me, especially as his understanding becomes more sophisticated. If I use a swear word, he would most definitely begin using it. If I always respond in the negative, of course he would do likewise. Ethan shows me what's coming out of my mouth when I'm not even realizing it. This first dawned at me at the park a few months ago, when out of the blue (so I thought) he began saying, "Be careful!" every time he walked up a really steep slide. Of course. That's what I'd been telling him, again and again.

In therapy the other day, with Diane: "One more!" he started exclaiming, every time he got close to finishing a puzzle or a button/zipper task. That's me, always urging him that he's almost finished.

His favorite lately is "keep going!" He'll say this while we're on long walks; while he's picking up a big mess; when he's doing something really hard that he doesn't want to do. When he did this the other day all I could think about was my very favorite movies, Finding Nemo, when Dory the fish shares her favorite little song ("What do I do when life gets me down? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...").

The fact that Ethan is repeating these things brings a smile to my face, because I have not been known to be the most positive with my words. Ever. I've most likely dragged other people down over the years with negativity. I've certainly dragged myself down. Yet Ethan is hearing Keep going and Good job. And a new one I'm trying to remember to add: You can do it. (Or maybe it should be "I can do it," if he's going to repeat things literally, but whatever).

These are the phrases we all need to breathe in and live. If there ever was a case for echolalia, for repeating a script, this would be it. I can do this...I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Keep going. Don't give up. Just keep swimming, through both the dark and the shallow waters.

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