Friday, July 23, 2010

The impact of words...

We've been trying to get Billy to have more understanding of the impact of the words he says.

Might sound strange... he's saying things, choosing certain words to say... surely he understands what those words mean, otherwise he wouldn't be able to choose them.

Yes, and no.

Billy is one of many kids on the spectrum who uses a LOT of echolalia in his speech. He always has, and at almost seven, he's still doing it. He's never really been much for the immediate echolalia, but he's a cracker at the delayed version.

He has an extraordinary auditory memory. Truly, stunningly, spectacularly extraordinary. And he draws on that memory to supplement and develop his speech.

It works out pretty well, a lot of the time. He can pull out relatively appropriate phrases quite often. People comment (a lot) on how polite and well mannered he is, on the basis of his responses to questions in public. Only the Silent Partner and I (and Billy... maybe Scruffy... not sure how extraordinary his doggy language is) know the truth.

We look at each other and think, 'Thomas the Tank Engine' or' 'Bo on the Go' or 'Grand Theft Auto'. Actually that's where it gets hairy.

Let me first explain why an almost seven year old is playing Grand Theft Auto. He saw the crashes. You may have seen his contribution to YouTube's crash collection. We turned the volume down. And we're not the only ones. Although that other kid is waaaaaay nicer than Billy is... let's just say pedestrians, lamp posts and vehicles generally are not safe in Liberty City.

We chose to turn the volume down because a few seriously ghetto phrases were coming out of a white, Australian boy's mouth. It is not a good idea to say, 'Get out of my way, sucka' to one of your classmates. Despite the fact that it will almost invariably have the desired effect.  It is offensive, inappropriate and unnecessary.

The irony of this little learning journey is not lost on me, this week... when, apart from ill-informed comments about children with special needs needing to be accommodated 'somewhere else' until they are ready to be mainstreamed, the Australian media also let the phrase, 'all boys are retarded' go by without much fuss.

Autism brings with it a life full of 'teachable moments'. I guess an on-air TV career might not.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Has Billy discovered Runescape? It's an online game, and I think you'd both enjoy it.

And the kids also loved Need for Speed - the crashes as well as the pimping their cars. Didn't like Gran Turismo though.

I can also say that there is a ridiculous amount of pseudo-echolalia that happens with children from Billy's age upwards... most of it media related. Sigh.

Yes, I just invented the term pseudo-echolalia to describe the way teenagers talk to each other using whatever are the current buzz-words. Lol-speak and leetspeak seem to be still popular.

See, echolalia gone mainstream!