Do you ever feel like someone’s watching you? Like maybe someone is watching and recording everything you say and do?
Guess what, if you have a child on the spectrum, someone is always watching your every move. It’s not as creepy as it sounds. This isn’t Psycho. No one is peeking into your windows. Children on the spectrum are extremely observant. In fact, you may not even know that they are paying attention to you. They may be in the same room as you doing an entirely different activity, but they are still taking in every detail.
When my youngest daughter was about four, there was a commercial that seemed to be on TV constantly. It was an ad for a new antidepressant. I guess I didn’t really pay attention to the ad until my daughter started reciting it. The first time she repeated the commercial word for word, I realized that she was always paying attention to everything going on around her.
She was like a tape recorder.
Even when I thought she wasn’t listening, she was. This can be a double-edged sword. But it can be more beneficial than you might think. When I realized that she was always watching and listening, I decided to use it as a teaching tool.
Autistics, like myself and daughter, frequently mimic the behaviors and actions of those around them. Which means we can mimic good and bad behaviors. If I screamed and yelled, that’s what she’d end up doing too. I tried to focus on my positive behaviors so when she watched me, she would mimic them. (It was also a benefit for me and a reminder to always practice being positive.)
Did you forget what you said to that telemarketer that called your house ten times a day for the last month? Guess what, if your autistic daughter was listening, she can recall and repeat the conversation word for word. Now I’m not suggesting that you should fret over every little thing you say and do around your children. That would be nerve racking and literally impossible. I’m only suggesting that when your child starts repeating everything you say, use it as a teachable moment.
It is true that some of us on the spectrum repeat the same sound, word or phrase as a form of stimming.
This is known as echolalia. If this is what your child does, hopefully your child is not repeating something unmentionable. When my daughter was younger, she often repeated words and phrases because she liked the way they sounded.
I often role-played social situations with my daughters when they were in elementary school. We’d talk or act out appropriate ways to handle emotions instead of repeating an inappropriate word or phrase. We’d play around with facial expressions and non-verbal cues to understand them better.
Don’t fret if your child is repeating what you say and do.
All children to some degree mimic their parents. Although this behavior is sometimes more pronounced with those of us on the autism spectrum. I remember when my oldest daughter was little, she overheard me saying that cigarette smoking is bad for your health. For the next several months she’d shout “Smoking is bad for you!” to anyone she saw smoking. We got a lot of dirty looks.
The behavior didn’t stop but eventually started whispering this phrase instead of shouting it. It was something she needed to say, but she learned on her own to adapt. Eventually, she stopped saying it altogether. I let her be her and learn through her watching, listening, and mimicking. That is really the victory.
If you liked this post, you may also like:
- More of Megan’s Autism Insider essays
- Autism and Echolalia: 4 Tips for Using it Productively
- Autistic Self-Care
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