Monday, January 19, 2015

Scripting Sponge Bob

One of the things we lived with long before Tate got his diagnosis of autism was Echolalia (repeating words, phrases, or whole dialogues). Although we had no idea it had a name or it was a sign of autism, we thought it odd. Tate would repeat the last word of my sentences or sometimes my whole sentences. He often repeated what he said too and sometimes the second time it was whispered.

Tate, age 3
As a toddler Tate said, “Mommy” all day long and I would usually answer with, “What?” He started calling me, “Mommy What.” He echoed my “What” right into my name for months. I thought it sounded really sweet but still had no idea why he did those strange little things that his five older siblings had never done.

When Tate was a little older he would repeat advertising jingles, lines from cartoons, or pages from picture books randomly throughout his day. I have heard others recently calling this scripting instead of echolalia. Either way it seems to be very common in kids with autism.

I follow a video blogger called Autism Hippie. Look for her on Facebook. Her son Mike scripts all day long and he starts early. He wakes his mom with a line from a movie or a video game and she hears the same line for hours at a time sometimes. One of my favorite blogs is Conversations With Casey. It is also a video blog. Casey does not script verbally much but scripts in a different way. He memorizes the movements of a musician in a video or of an actor in a scene of a movie and then repeats the actions over and over with the audio in the background. His violin “playing” fools people sometimes. His violin is silent but Casey sure looks like he is a virtuosos. I would highly recommend finding this blog on Facebook as well.

Tate has scripted for years but these days he usually only scripts with one-liners and it is not always evident to people what he is doing. He can cleverly fit lines from movies into situations where they often apply. Sometimes they are very random though, unfitting and odd. When Tate pipes up with a one-liner I can sometimes recognize it as one he has used before or I can even remember the movie it came from. Sometimes though, I cannot. Often I will hear it later in a movie he is watching and say, “Aha!”

A few days ago I got a phone call midday from Tate’s resource room teacher whom I appreciate very much. She is wonderful with Tate and she is a great communicator. She called because Tate had said something very inappropriate to his paraprofessional and she thought I should know how they handled it. Tate had randomly said, “Let’s get naked.” Of course this kind of thing could become a real problem in a public school setting! Tate’s teacher and I knew his comment was not of a sexual nature but also knew others might not be so understanding. Tate needed to realize that he could not ask people to “get naked.” She said he was very receptive when she told him that he could not say that anymore. He said he would not. I told Tate’s teacher that I was sure he probably got the line from a movie. I hung up the phone and a few minutes later it rang again. Tate’s teacher decided she would ask Tate if his offensive line had come from a movie. Without missing a beat he said, “Sponge Bob, Season 3.” I searched online immediately and up popped a scene in which Patrick said, “Let’s get naked.” to Sponge Bob.

This incident reminded of a book I had read by Sean Barron, an author with autism who has written about his experiences. He reminisces in one of his books about being young and memorizing lines in shows that were followed by canned laughter. He’d try out the line on his classmates or teacher the next day but rarely get the response he wanted. He did not understand that not all of those lines were funny when out of context. I am not sure that Tate is doing the same and delivering lines to get laughter but he is delivering lines so that he can interact with people. When Tate said, “Let’s get naked” I can be fairly certain that he had no intentions of doing so and did not expect his para too either. Sponge Bob’s answer to Patrick was “No” in the episode. I imagine Tate fully expected his para to say, “No” and then Tate would have had a “conversation” under his belt for the day.

Tate, January 2015
When you meander through life not understanding how to start a conversation, yet wanting to engage people, I can imagine that scripting would be what kids like Tate would turn to. I think Tate was just trying to “converse” with his para and this is how he tried. Of course, it could also have just been a random stim too. Tate does do a lot of stimming and scripting is a stim. I could just inquire of Tate as to why he asked his para to get naked. But Tate cannot tell me the whys. And if I did ask it would cause him anxiety because he cannot answer. If I try to have a serious conversation with Tate he usually sees it as discipline and becomes very stressed. I say it often, “I’d love to get inside that head of his for a while and see what is going on.” ha

This is a much older post, also about Echoes. You might like to read it if you want to read more about echoes or stimming. 

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  1. I could swear you were blogging about my medium monkey!

  2. I worked with a boy who was LDS and went to seminary in high school. When he came back to school one day I asked him what they talked about. He started dialoguing about...."Duck had treacle (I looked it up. It is syrup in England.) and he was so ashamed!" A few days later a girl told me how funny it was when he did that at seminary. When I asked what they were talking about she said, "Shame." He was trying to communicate!!