“I do not like that hat. Good-bye!”

Autism: “self + -ism”  (from the Greek prefix, auto = self)

Autism is….complicated.

I’ve been learning a lot of new words since the advent of my son’s diagnosis of ASD.  One of them is scripting.  As a teacher of the arts, I immediately liked the sound of this new vocab term.  It sounds so theatrical!  Essentially, it’s often linked with the term echolalia, both of which refer to when someone repeats something (like an echo: makes sense).  The term scripting is more often used to reference the recitation of lines from movies and books, but it can be the repetition of any chunk of dialogue in the person’s memory.  A lot of us recite or ‘script’ favorite lines and quotes (my husband throws out obscure 90’s R and B lyrics with reckless abandon); the key difference is why people with autism script.   There’s no exact science (which is why autism is so complicated), but scripting can indicate feelings of extreme stress, excitement, or function as a cryptic means of communication.

Which brings us to our anecdote.

Two days ago, Big C (my three year-old with ASD) and I were having fun with Play-doh.  I was also using our “play time” as a teaching moment.  We were working on colors, turn-taking, and verbalizing what we were thinking (I say we, but it was mostly me).  At one point, he tired of sharing and asked me to work with my own Play-doh so he could do his own thing.

Fair enough.

Once I had made a little sculpture by myself, I asked Big C if he liked it.  He looked over and said, “I do not like that hat.  Good-bye!”

Fascinating.

To the innocent bystander, it would appear Big C completely misunderstood me.  But he didn’t.  He was scripting from a book by P.D. Eastman called Go, Dog, Go! that I read to him roughly six months ago.  In the book, a female dog repeatedly asks a male dog if he “likes her hat” and the male dog says, “I do not like that hat.  Good-bye!”

Big C totally understood me.  He just had an unusual way of showing it.

This moment was so important for me and Big C.  It was a solid reminder of why my son is hard for others to understand.  Yes, he does struggle with articulation, but more often, it’s not how he says things, but what he says.  He appears to be speaking out of context, but instead, he is making amazing connections between what he is ‘reading’ with what he is experiencing. He’s taking the reading concept of “talking to the text” to a whole new level.  When the time comes for Big C to write literary analyses and cite examples from the text, he is going to be a pro!

BUT, I recognize more clearly now why this is a social impairment for him.  Much as I’d like to, I cannot follow Big C around and translate for him, citing to others how clever he is with his literary quips.

What I CAN do though is teach him how to explain to others his seemingly obscure connections.

In response to my question, what if he said this instead: “Mom, I know what I should say.  Society says I should tell a white lie, that I like your sculpture.  Instead, I’d like to provide you with a literary anecdote from an antiquated children’s book you read to me that highlights the masochistic society of the 1950’s with the use of male and female dogs.  You see, the female dog keeps looking for the male dog’s approval by seeking a compliment about her hat.  He denies her several times as she continues to change her appearances for his benefit.  At the text’s end, he decides her hat is worthy and they ride off into the sunset.  While I don’t care for the gender biases of the text, I appreciate the display of brutal honesty.  That’s why I need to be brutally honest with you now.  I know you want me to say I like your sculpture, but I don’t.  Maybe you should try again.”

Of course, he could simply say, “Your question reminds me of a book we read once.”

That would certainly suffice.

Call it scripting.  Call it echolalia.  I call it pretty damn clever!

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By Jengod (talk) (Uploads) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39605122
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“My Butt is getting SO big!”

Laugh: to express mirth, pleasure, derision, or nervousness with an audible, vocal expulsion of air from the lungs that can range from a loud burst of sound to a series of quiet chuckles and is usually accompanied by characteristic facial and bodily movements.

…and other hilarious stuff my three year-old says.

It’s these kinds of surprising and honest comments that keep me going, that keep me sane.  When I’m feeling overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of being a mother, it’s these simple moments that remind me why I chose to a parent in the first place.

I’m sure we all have a laundry list of adorable things our children have said, but how often do we take the time to really tally them up and enjoy them?  A lot of my posts are, and will continue to be, about the struggles of raising a child diagnosed with ASD, but I cannot allow myself to merely unleash the struggle.  I need to embrace the moments of pure joy parenting brings as well.

So, for today’s post, here are a couple of moments highlighting my “laundry list of laughter,” if you will.

Laugh #1: “Mommy, you’re a princess!”  
Big C’s comment when he saw me in a dress for the first time (I’m a slacks kind of gal).  After that comment, it’s a wonder I don’t wear dresses every day.

Laugh #2: “Mommy, you are my son.”
Imagine this said with a completely serious and sincere tone.  I often tell Big C he’s my son and that I love him. Obviously, “son” has a unique connotation for him.

Laugh #3: “You wanna piece of meat?”
One day when wrestling with our son, my husband asked him, “Do you want a piece of me?”  Big C heard something a little different, and it’s stuck ever since.

Laugh #4: “Ask.”
Big C often repeats things verbatim.  In the world of ASD, this is called echolalia (one of the many terms I’ve learned).  So, for example, when I tell Big C to ask his father for a popsicle, he walks up to his daddy and says, “Ask.”  It’s adorable, I tell you!

Laugh #5: “There’s a snake in my boot!”
Big C will often randomly quote lines directly from movies and tv shows and insert them awkwardly into “conversations.”  It leaves most he interacts with perplexed, but makes me smile understandingly.  It’s like our own private joke (speaking of  which, that’s a Toy Story reference).

Laugh #6: “T-rex have teeth big as ‘nanas!”
No surprise that Big C likes to fixate on things.  One of his biggest fixations are dinosaurs.  He watched an episode of Dino Dan (sneaking suspicion he may also be on the spectrum) and they mentioned that Tyrannosaurus Rexes have teeth as big as bananas.  This little fact has fastened itself to Big C’s brain ever since, and it is a fact he is thrilled to share with anyone who will listen.

Laugh #7: “I’m the little boss!”
In a fit of frustration one night, my husband said to Big C, “You need to listen to me.  I’m the boss!”  to which Big C responded, “Well, I’m the little boss!”  Well played little dude, well played.

Laugh #8: “Patience, Mama.  Do you understand?”
This past Christmas morning, I was perplexed that Big C was not ripping his presents open.  Instead, he was placing them into a pile and simply staring at them, seemingly savoring the moment.  When I asked him why he wasn’t opening any, that was his response above. I do understand, Big C, I really do.

Laugh #9: “Oh, man!”
Big C picked this up from Swiper on Dora the Explorer and says it at pretty hilarious times like after throwing up on the kitchen table.  Little dude’s got comedic timing down.

And finally, Laugh #10: “My Butt is getting SO big!”
Big C loves to talk about how big he’s growing and then cite each individual body part’s amazing growth.  You get the idea.

What are some of the hilarious comments your child makes?  I’d love to have you add to the laundry list.

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