Wednesday, August 31, 2011


“Its déjà vu, all over again”
-Yogi Berra

One of the greatest pleasures of youth (or in an immature not-so-youthful person such as me) is that time honored tradition of mocking someone by mindlessly repeating what they say. Think about it. You can remember when you did it and when it was done to you. And it always follows that same predicable script:

Torturee: Are you repeating me?
Torturer: Are you repeating me?

Torturee: Ah, c’mon stop it!
Torturer: Ah, c’mon stop it!

Torturee: Please, cut it out.
Torturer: Please, cut it out.

Torturee: I am stupid.
Torturer: I know you are.

Ahhh! The joy of it never gets old.

But, now imagine that the only way you can communicate is through such repetition. The only way to meaningfully communicate your basic needs, fulfill your strongest desires and display your true emotions is to repeat what someone just said to you, or to try to recall something someone said to you on a similar topic in the past and try to use it now. Now you have a lay man’s understanding of what is known as ECHOLALIA and you can now imagine our little man’s primary method of communication.

You can type the word "echolalia" in a search engine and get all of the scientific gobbledygook, but where is the fun in that?! Some things you just need to experience for yourself.

As we have experienced it, echoalia comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes its just immediate and mindless repetition of the last thing that was said. For instance, in a moment of self-aggrandizement, there have been reports that our son may have immediately repeated the phrase “Daddy, you are the man!” or “Daddy, you are the king of the universe.” But, under the Fifth Amendment, I can not comment on the truth of those reports.

We also have experienced the delayed, mindless borrowed from TV echolalia which, in our version, comes replete with an almost uncanny ability to sound like the original source. Image our surprise when we overheard our little boy playing in the other room saying in most feminine voice: “Hi, I am Julie Clark founder of the Baby Einstein Company” or announcing in the perfect TV announcer voice that “Chuck E. Cheese’s is a proud sponsor of PBS Kids.”

But, in our experience, echolalia is not just mindless repetition, but can also be a mechanism of meaningful communication and provides our little boy with an ability to convey what he needs in words that he might not otherwise have. He has a truly fascinating ability to go back in his mind’s eye and grab any experience or situation in the past and bring it out to convey some thought, some desire, or some emotion in the present. Best part is, as he has grown and learned more, he has been able to change the words to fit the situation.

One of our favorites de jure is “No, Max.” If you are familiar with the kid’s TV show, Max & Ruby, you know Ruby is the “responsible “ older sister who is constantly trying to put the buzz kill on the younger Max’s master plans. Max will say what he wants: "Water" and Ruby promptly shuts Max down with a familiar cry of “No Max, you can’t play in the water…”

Now, any time our little man has a strong desire for something, which he knows he probably can’t have, we hear him say both parts:

“Cookies! …….No, Max. No Cookies”

“I Pod! ……No, Max, no iPod”


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