R has started echoing a few words that he hears on his iPad, or which he hears us say. He is not able to retrieve these words on command, use them to label, or use them in a literal functional way, but they serve their own very unique function for him. This new development is really special and exciting to witness. This way of learning and using spoken language is called echolalia. Reza sometimes echoes a word right after he hears it, which is called immediate echolalia. Other times, he echoes the word much later and seemingly out of context. That is called delayed echolalia.
Most of the words he is echoing are from an iPad app that displays pictures of animals and intones their names. A few weeks ago we first noticed him immediately echoing “elephant,” and “giraffe,” right after his iPad would say it. Soon he began reciting “elephant, giraffe” at random times throughout the day. We began to notice that he would use this recitation to calm himself down when slightly anxious. On a trip to the beach he was at once excited and frightened by the waves crashing into the sand at his feet. He would run and dip a toe in, then chant “elephant, giraffe!” as he scurried back to safety.
While “elephant,” has mostly fizzled out, he continues to enjoy saying “giraffe,” and using it to mean different things in his own way. Sometimes giraffe means “I’m scared!” Sometimes it means “I’m feeling silly!” Sometimes it means “I can’t process all this input right now, I need to focus inward so I feel okay.” And sometimes, sometimes, giraffe means “I love you.” And that is my favorite giraffe of all.
You can watch here: Giraffe video 🙂