Thursday, January 17, 2013

Taco Bell, Taco Bell, Taco Bell

This has nothing to do with the post.
I just found it while "cleaning" my computer.
Taco Bell, Taco Bell, Taco Bell....

This refrain echoed through our house for weeks.  It was heard at preschool, too.  Gabe's teachers commented about how much he loves Taco Bell.  Funny, we never ate there.

This was just one example of Gabe's echolalia.  He would just repeat words or phrases that had an interesting sound to them.  "Taco Bell" does have a nice sound and could be considered fun to say.  I guess.  Gabe was 3 years old at this point and most of the words that came out of his mouth had no relevance to the world.  He wasn't using those words to communicate his thoughts, his needs or his ideas.

At the urging of his speech therapist, we used this repetitive behavior to help Gabe build his communication skills.  She taught him a simple "Knock, knock" joke.

"Knock, knock"
"Who's there?"
"Boo who?"
"Don't cry. I'm here."

It took a while but he learned this and loved hearing the sounds.  He also got used to the back and forth nature of the joke and conversation.

That spring when Gabe was 3 1/2 years old, he said three little words that made me cry.  One night as we were doing our nightly ritual of trying to get him to stay in bed and sleep, Gabe turned to me and said, in his best Donald Duck voice,"I love you."  He probably had no idea what he was saying.  He was just mimicking a Disney commercial that ran frequently at that time and liked the silly voice.  

The meaning of words came later.  We worked to encourage language and stop the random repeating of words.  One day while at a play date with another child with autism, Gabe started with the current favorite phrase.  I stopped him and redirected him to something else.  The other mother asked if I knew that echolalia was part of autism.  I did.  I just wasn't accepting it as an appropriate behavior.  

Now Gabe's speech and language is not much different from any other high school kid.  He talks too much sometimes and not enough others.  He tells bad jokes that he learns from his coaches.  

Everything that Gabe says now has meaning.  He is communicating and interacting. Striving for Independence: Ways to Help Children with Disabilities Learn to Function More Indepedently eBook: Kristan Payne: Kindle Store