All work and no play makes Oliver an orange cat

They call it echolalia. Spell check here on the blog says it doesn’t exist, but don’t let that fool you. Merriam Webster defines it as

the often pathological repetition of what is said by other people as if echoing them

That’s kind of harsh. Autistic people can use this kind of repetition as a way to connect. It helps them recount things they heard during the day. They can use it as a narrative. We learn more about Joey’s day by echolalia than we do by asking him what went on. “Sean, get out of the kitchen” is one of our favorites, even though that repeated report of a discipline problem at school is years old now.

But it can wear on the mental health of the care giver, that’s for sure. If Joey isn’t feeling well in the middle of the night, he wants to know that mom isn’t far away. So he comes barging into the bedroom to make contact by asking about a logo on one of his videos.

“What ‘W’ is it?” he demands.

To which he expects mom to reply, “It’s Walt Disney pictures.”

And he echoes “Awww, ‘W’ is Walt Disney pictures.” Then he goes away. For a minute or so. Then the door crashes open again. And he answers his own question, echoing mom’s half asleep moan,

“What ‘W’ is it? Aww, it’s Walt Disney pictures.” And away he goes. And then comes back and says it again, leaves, comes back and says it again, leaves…

Care givers can wind up feeling like Shelley Duvall’s character in this famous scene,

Today Joey had to stay home sick. He became enthralled in Oliver and Company. Which produced the following echolalia fest,

Joe: “Who’s Oliver?”

Mom: “Oliver is an orange cat.”

Joe: “Awww, Oliver is an orange cat.”

Joe: “Who’s Oliver? Oliver is an orange cat.”

Joe: “Who’s Oliver? Oliver is an orange cat.”

Joe: “Who’s Oliver? Oliver is an orange cat.” Etc.

But then it isn’t just autistic people who resort to repetitive conversational conventions…

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