Monday, January 23, 2012

Echo Bridge

Despite a thorough scrubbing, my stairs are still covered with sticky glitter. Earlier this weekend, a small boy tried to roll a snow globe down them. I don't think that it worked out quite the way he thought it would... and so, Simon learned the hard way that glass doesn't bounce.

The crash was pretty spectacular, and I think he knew right away he'd done something wrong. I immediately swooped in to save him from any shards, and after I'd checked him over (he was fine), I sat him down on a chair while I went to clean up the mess.

A few moments later (and a lot sparklier), I retrieved Simon from where I'd planted him. He'd stayed put in the chair and was crying pretty hard. I hugged him in my lap and told him he was okay. We took a few deep breaths together, and as soon as he'd recovered himself he began to tearfully recite a bit from one of his favorite Winnie the Pooh stories; falling back into his "normal" echolalic behavior.

As I held him, I realized that he was reciting from the episode about Rabbit's vegetable garden -- Tigger had bounced all over it and ruined Rabbit's rutabagas. Simon was repeating Tigger's apology to Rabbit, over and over again.

"I'm really sorry, Rabbit.... It's okay Tigger, it was an accident.... Thank you, Rabbit..."

Then, gradually, it turned into... "Simon is sorry.... It's okay Simon, it was an accident..... Thank you, Rabbit."

I realized that Simon was trying to apologize to me. He was connecting Tigger's mistake to his own, and Rabbit's reaction to mine. He was using the "social story" the episode provided to find the right words to tell me how he felt. Suddenly, the echolalia wasn't just repetition, it was an actual echo of his own meaning, his real intention.

I've imagined before that Simon's communication disability is like a vast body of water, making him into an island I can't quite reach. Although I'm still looking for a ship to navigate across it, in the meantime, perhaps I've found a bridge.

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