Monday, January 15, 2007

Repeating Oneself

One of the habits of older people is to re-tell the same story or to say the very same words every time that a certain situation arises. I blush to report that there is a point in the teaser to the MythBuster show which my husband and I enjoy watching together, where I say that something is really unsafe. It isn't a bad observation. My husband is really patient and wouldn't point out to me that it is tiresome to say it again and again. I am trying hard to remember never to say this particular sentence again.

Our Alan's autistic brain does this so frequently that it causes us to tell him we can't hear him, or that we have to leave if he says it again. He will have a routine, such as hugging his dog, Pepper. Most times when he does that, afterward, Pepper stretches. Alan will comment "Pepper stretches for the same reason I do." Sometimes Pepper yawns. Alan says, "Pepper yawns because his body is saying, 'I need oxygen, I need oxygen.'" These were once things he said or we said to him. His repetition is often called scripting or verbal stimming or echolalia. Alan heard former President Bush say, "I'm President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli." If anyone mentions the word broccoli, Alan will repeat this sentence.

For me, I can consciously tell myself not to say something in the same way again. I'm not so old that I can't do that successfully.

For Alan, this is a major social wall. He needs to learn to keep these words as internal dialog if he can't refrain from voicing them. I wonder if he will get to the point where he is able to tell himself not to say some pet phrase. Even people he loves will and do want to get away from him when he does this. The reaction of acquaitances will be swifter and he won't be able to keep people interested in having a conversation with him.


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