It’s hard to explain Brian’s language capabilities to people who don’t know him or know autism. You can’t hold a conversation with him very often and he usually can’t answer most questions. The professionals label him “functionally nonverbal”, as he has a huge vocabulary of words but he doesn’t communicate with them. However, he has been very busy collecting this amazing repertoire of scripts that he’s really beginning to use appropriately.
Like this week at a school assembly he turned to his teacher and said, “I’m bored” but if he was asked how he was feeling he probably wouldn’t be able to answer.
Yesterday at the lab, he sauntered in, flung his arms wide open and said, “Hi guys!” But later when he was greeted by lab techs he didn’t reply at all.
When asked to sit in the chair to give blood he replied, “Eh, let me think”, when he very much did not want to sit in that chair. We’ve never heard the word “think” used functionally.
Sometimes they turn into inappropriate things. Like for instance, right now he is on a huge Finding Nemo kick and started repeating, “He touched the butt”. Remember, the scene where the other sea animals dare Nemo to touch the boat, but they mispronounce it and call it a “butt”? Well he’s been having a lot of fun with “butt” and making his own boy humor with it.
These are all scripts he gets from movies. Movies speak to him. The fact that they’re always the same and don’t change and don’t throw him for a loop where he has to access complex processing strategies, all of that makes it so movies are his happy place. This seems to be how he is learning language best.
At the same time, it is very evident that he gets over-stimulated and has more negative behaviors when he has increased time on screens. He begins to lose interest in other play that is actually social, and becomes very stuck on only wanting to watch movies. So limits are placed and they are held, even though we love the scripts he is picking up from the movies.
As I’ve said before, it is a balancing act. Like every aspect of this parenting gig.