“Why was Joe out?”
This is probably the 12th time I’ve heard this question, and it’s only the fourth inning; I’ll hear it several times over the next few days, too, over and over: Why was Joe out? Why was Joe out?
“Logan, you tell me,” I say.
“Joe was out because the fielder threw the ball to first base before Joe could run there,” he promptly recites. Just like he did the last time. And the other last time. And the other.
Echolalia is a trait of kids with autism to quote a sentence they’ve heard somewhere; it can be random or appropriate, and it can be repeated a single time or multiple times. Logan used to only speak in echolalia – he went from practically silent until age 2 ½ to suddenly speaking in these full, elaborate sentences (“Let’s go downstairs and get a vitamin and some milk before breakfast!”) that initially I was thrilled about. After all, he suddenly could talk, and hearing my son’s voice finally was both a thing of beauty and relief; I thought I no longer had to worry about his communication.
Why was Joe out? A full sentence, all on his own.
However, my husband and I soon realized that these extraordinary statements that were flowing from him weren’t actually expressive communication—much like a parrot can be taught to mimic sounds it hears, Logan was merely echoing long chains of sounds. When he would say, “Ahh…what a day!” he wasn’t necessarily meaning the day was particularly hard or lovely—he was just quoting the Tramp from his favorite movie, Lady and the Tramp (which we had to watch every Friday night for about nine months when he was 3). I’ve read that for kids with autism, saying these familiar sounds feels good, like scratching an annoying itch.
Logan’s echolalia has turned context-appropriate; now, at age 4, his new favorite movie is Frozen, and when I’m driving he’ll quote the character Kristof: “Come on, Mommy, faster!” (In the movie, Kristoff is riding his reindeer and says, “Come on, buddy, faster!”) Because of this, it’s also now somewhat functional.
Why was Joe out? A good question, one he needed to know watching his first baseball game.
But it’s hard to know the difference. Sometimes he’ll say sorrowfully, “I wish I could see my father again. I miss him so much” (Beauty and the Beast), when Jason is at work. He could be missing his dad, but I don’t know that we’ve ever used the word “father” instead of dad, and the tone of voice Logan uses would indicate he hasn’t seen Jason in months, not hours. He’s recreating not only the words from the sentence but also the pace, the volume, and the pitch.
Why was Joe out? His own question, but asked with the same vocal tone and rhythm—everything exactly the same. Over and over.
As his meltdowns have drastically decreased, about five months into our zero-sugar, heavy-probiotics diet, we’ve been celebrating. I just noticed this morning that I haven’t said, “Have a great day, sweetie. And remember—no pushing! No aggressive acts!” to Logan as I drop him off at daycare for months. He’s had happy day after happy day for weeks.
But the echolalia persists; at times I wonder if it’s even increasing. His subtle hand-flapping, too, doesn’t seem to be disappearing, either. Of course, these are definitely tolerable compared to the daily reports of pushing other kids at school and multiple screaming fits every day. We’ll take it as a win. But still—they’ll make life harder for him down the road, and that worries me.
So when he repeats, for the umpteenth time, why Joe was taken out, sometimes it’s all I can do to keep from screaming. It’s hard not to scrunch my face up and ignore the question. Sometimes it’s hard not to cry. And it’s always impossible not to repeat to myself for the umpteenth time:
“Why was Logan singled out?”
Jason’s GFCFSugarFree Brownies:
Blend together and bake
- 3/4 cup almond flour
- 3/4 cup sorghum flour
- 1/4 cup hazelnut flour
- 1/4 cup coconut flour
- 1/4 cup potato starch
- 3/4 cup cocao powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 tablespoons flax seed
- 3/4 cup LUV sweetener
- 10-12 drops liquid stevia
- 1/2 c coconut oil
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- Quinoa and coconut milk til wet
- 1/4 cup HOT water (to keep coconut oil liquefied)