By KODEY TONEY
I would like to talk a little bit more this week about Konner’s vocalization. Last week I wrote about how he was talking to the computer and how that is a form of socializing. One of the main things that tend to define a child with autism of course is the lack of social skills and verbal communication issues. I want to talk a little bit about a couple of things that occur typically in children on the spectrum.
One of the main things is that if they are verbal they will usually talk at someone as opposed to talking to them. For example, Konner will talk all day long about Thomas the Train, Roblox, or Minecraft, but if you want to ask him about how his day was he usually gives short answer like, “It was okay, It was good,” or just, “Fine.” If he’s in the middle of a conversation and you try to change the subject he may veer off for a split second, but then he’s going to go right back to the initial conversation. For instance, if he was talking about Roblox and he said, “I built a Thomas today on Roblox, and he was going to Napford Station, and he was talking to Gordon, and Gordon ran off the tracks,” and then I interrupt with, “Konner how was your day today?” He would say, “Fine…but then Harvey came along to fix the tracks, and then Gordon took off…” and he would never even skip a beat.
I try not to discourage any kind of communication. I must be honest though, while I am extremely proud and happy that he can talk, sometimes the ongoing conversations about these things tend to be a little boring and I lose interest. However, I try to never let him know. If I’m doing something else and he comes in the room I may be listening to the side and just say, “Uh Huh…yes…that’s interesting…that’s cool Buddy.” You’ve got to understand that after about 20 minutes it starts to get a little crazy, especially when he’s just repeating most of it. Of course my wife would probably tell you that this is the way I listen to her.
I do try to ask questions here and there so that he does understand that I am trying to listen. It’s just a way to help him with the socializing skills. Every once in a while you may jump in and say, “Hey you know a lot of people may want to talk about something different,” or explain the situation to him in case he needs to use it in a situation outside of the home.
I’ve talked about echolalia before, but this is another issue for children on the spectrum. I think it is worth revisiting. Echolalia is a tendency to repeat things constantly. Most children will repeat things, but for a child on the spectrum sometimes that repetition can go on for days and even weeks. They will pick a favorite phrase or saying, something that they watched on TV or heard on the radio, and they will constantly repeat it over and over and over and over and over and over and…well you get the point.
While this is annoying it also can be disastrous depending on what they are trying to repeat. This is why we try to filter what Konner watches, and listens to. His most recent repetition involves a little saying and then at the end of it is a squeal/scream. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. One thing that we have is explain to him, “Okay Konner you can do this one more time and then we’re done.” Typically this works. Not every time, but most of the time. This may be worth trying if you have a child that is doing the same thing.
Any parent with the child that is nonverbal will tell you what I’m about to tell you. Any talking is good. Yes it may get to be old. Yes in may get to be annoying, but you should encourage it. You should help them use it as a learning experience teaching social skills as much as you can.