I have recently re-started reading ‘academic’ literature and other individual’s personal blogs about Autism. I had forgotten how comforting this is and also how I find that others writing will trigger a flow of my own. I just read about echolalia (repetition of speech). Echolalia is one of those rather academic sounding terms and one which I was quite sure did not apply to myself. To my astonishment I found myself saying out loud “I do that!” and I do. Well everyone does, but autistic people do it to a greater degree and often for differing reasons than your average NT.
My friend and autistic confidant was just as astonished that I had been surprised. Almost weekly I ask her to ‘hold on a minute’ while I write down her thoughts and advice word for word. If I don’t write them down as she speaks I wont remember them at all. I may remember the overall jist of the conversation , such as ‘don’t feel guilty for feeling this way’, but I wont be able to use the discussion in a social context, even one to one with another person, my mind will go totally blank, I can remember that I have good reasons for sticking up for myself in a given situation, for example, but I cannot formulate a sentence to do that when I come to the situation. I experience muteness (another autistic thing I thought I didn’t do!). If I have written something down word for word and gone over it, then I have a much better chance of being able to formulate a sentence relaying my view or feelings. Until now I have thought that this is ‘cheating’ because I am repeating my friends words. Now I realise that my friend is putting into words what I am struggling to say for myself and that repeating (echolalia) her word for word is not pretending, or cheating, or ‘using’ her in any way, it is merely a tool to help me express myself.
I realise that the battering ram of high school and university’s pleas for ‘no plagiarism’ had the result of leaving me with an intense guilt and shame at using echolalia as a coping mechanism. Whereas actually I should be applauding my ingenuity at using echolalia so effectively to support my day to day life. There is nothing to be ashamed of, but it feels like there is.