Thursday, June 12, 2014

Building a Bridge With Echolalia

originally posted at

The key to understanding echolalia is to recognise that it's not meaningless, purposeless or mindless repetition. It's communication.

In part one of this post we looked at lots of possiblefunctions for echolalia, now let's see how you can use it as a powerful tool for helping you to connect with your kids.

Echolalia is an interesting but commonly misunderstood behaviour. Most kids do it at some point, and autistic kids can continue with it for longer and even into adulthood. Many approaches seem to advocate finding ways to fix, control or eliminate the behaviour - but not only is this not in your kids' best interests, it's missing out on a wonderful opportunity to connect with them.

Don't stop it
Being able to repeat speech and sounds is an important expressive outlet for kids who might be struggling with spoken language. Taking that away deprives them of the chance to communicate their emotions, calm themselves, get the hang of conversation, practice making sounds and reduce the anxiety involved with communicating verbally.

Don't ignore it
It's easy to tune out to words that don't make any sense to you (or run and hide from phrases you've heard a zillion times), but in doing so you're missing out on a valuable opportunity to acknowledge your kids' attempts to communicate. Even if they're just having fun, isn't that something you want to be a part of?

Understand it
Figuring out why a certain set of sounds are being repeated can be a challenge, especially if they don't make any sense to you. The trick is to look beyond the words - listen to the tone, cadence and rhythm of what is being said. That might give you a better clue as to the source of the echo, which in turn will give you more context to work with. Also pay attention to the accompanying behaviour - if they're overexcited then they might be using echolalia to calm down, if they're engaged with you and enjoying themselves then they might be filling in conversational gaps.

To read more, click here...

Monday, June 9, 2014

11 Things Gilligan's Island Taught Me About Parenting Autistic Kids

originally posted on

When life lands you on a deserted island, 
don't get angry... make a hammock!

1.  It’s never a three hour tour
The weather could start to get rough at any moment, so keep an emergency bag in your car at all times with a spare pair of clothes, some distractions, snacks and a juicebox.

2.  Coconuts have a zillion uses
You don’t have to go broke buying special therapy materials. Rubber bands, old containers, cardboard boxes, velcro, buttons, twist-ties, bottle caps, pegs... you can definitely make do with stuff you already own.

3.  There’s another side to the island
Having autistic kids can make you feel isolated - nobody understands what you’re going through and it’s hard to get out of the house. There’s a world out there that’s bigger than autism (and people who can help might be closer than you think)... but you’ll never find it if you don’t look.

4.  Wearing the same clothes everyday won’t kill you
There will be a million battles to fight, so choose wisely. Does it really matter if your kid wants to wear the same clothes, drive the same route or eat the same food every day?

5.  Every week there’s some new crazy scheme to get off the island
Ignore the hype. Find the information and therapies that make sense for you and give them a chance to work.

6.  When life gives you lemons, turn Hamlet into a musical
Just because things don’t go the way they’re supposed to doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun. Find the joy.

7.  Don’t sabotage your own attempts to get help
Jumping up and down waving your arms is a waste of energy and won't get you the support you need.  Work with the people that can help - ask nicely, be reasonable (even if they’re not).  Keep communication lines open and clear (don’t spell SOL when you mean SOS) - tell people exactly what they can do for you.  Learn from mistakes, and don’t let blindspots like ego, anger and resentment get in the way of finding solutions.

To continue reading, click here....

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It's Got To Be Perfect

originally posted at

Afraid to try.
Afraid of making mistakes.
Meltdowns after getting it wrong.
Obsessed about fixing errors.
Incredibly high standards.

Does this sound like anyone you know?

Yep, being a perfectionist can be a common autistic trait.

I’ve lost count of the number of times Max has rubbed through the paper trying to erase all evidence of a spelling mistake. If an art project doesn’t quite work out or a Lego model is put together incorrectly, it must be completely destroyed. If there’s so much as the tiniest imperfection in his food it gets thrown away. Colouring outside of the lines? Factual errors? Spelling mistakes and typos? These upset him greatly. Committing thoughts to paper causes him so much anxiety that he can’t even get started, yet suggestions or constructive criticism strike like daggers to his self-esteem. He strives for perfection, and won’t accept anything less.

And I understand him completely, because I’m exactly the same.

There are two sides to the perfectionist coin - striving to make everything perfect and getting upset when it's not. So while on the one hand setting high standards for yourself can create an admirable work ethic, the fear of making mistakes can also cause so much anxiety that it leads to frustration, depression, embarrassment, social isolation and meltdowns.

So why is it common in autism? Why is it so stressful, and what can you do to help?

Rigid thinking
Every task has a threshold that defines how far we have to push ourselves towards achieving success. It’s called ‘good enough’ - somewhere short of perfection that allows us to stop and move onto something else. But ‘good enough’ can be a pretty vague concept, one that can be extra hard to understand if you have a tendency to think in absolutes. Right vs wrong. Good vs bad. When there are no shades in between then the stakes are raised and success becomes an all-or-nothing kind of deal.

To read more, click here....