I like having words for things. Like, laryngomalacia. I don't know that it was super important in general that we had a word for Alexander's breathing, but it was important to me.
And now I have a word for Benjamin: echolalia.
I'm not sure exactly when this started, precisely, because all children repeat what they hear (that is, after all, how language is learned) but recently, within the past several months, he's been doing it more, which is odd because children usually grow out of it around age two or three. And I swear Benjamin did. But now he's doing it again. A lot.
For example, I'll say, "Benjamin, you need to get your shoes on," and he'll mutter after me, "You need to get your shoes on," then will pause and say, "Okay, Mom!"
Or I'll say, "Do you want to go for a walk?" and he'll repeat (under his breath), "Do you want to go for a walk?" before answering, "Yes!"
Or, when I'm reading to him, he'll mumble along with me, only slightly behind. I used to think he was actually reading along with me (and perhaps he is?) but he is 100% unaware that he's doing it. Like, I've asked him about why he repeats everything I say and he legitimately has no idea what I'm talking about.
Here's about how a conversation addressing his echoing goes down:
"Benjamin, why do you repeat everything I say?"
"Why do you repeat everything I say?" muttered softly, followed by his usual booming voice saying, "What do you mean, Mom? I don't do that!"
Of course, he doesn't always do it. He forms plenty of language all on his own accord (trust me; this child is rarely not talking) but he repeats often enough that it's put up a bit of a red flag for me.
Part of me thinks it's just some extra processing going on. He's only recently learned to read so his brain is restructuring how it stores words...or something. But another part of me is a little worried that it's a nervous tic (this article discusses palilalia (repeating oneself) as a nervous tic, so I fail to see why echolalia couldn't also be a nervous tic since they're closely related disorders).
The article about palilalia specifically mentioned certain stressors that could cause a child to exhibit a nervous tic for a time: "such as starting school or a new big sibling, or accomplishing a developmental hurdle (bike riding, reading)."
I read that list and thought about how Benjamin had done all of that this year:
Starting a new school? Check.
Getting a new baby brother? Check.
Learning to read? Check.
Not to mention moving across the country!
I'm sure he's been under loads of stress lately, both eustress and distress (doesn't matter). I know I have! I took the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory test around the time Alexander was born and my score was through the roof—and boy was I ever feeling it! Is it any wonder our children was/are feeling similarly?
Rachel went through a similar thing when she started kindergarten. We'd just had a baby (Benjamin, prematurely, I might add, so that's a little more stressful) and then moved across the country and stuck her in full-day kindergarten.
She used to come home from school and just...scream...for...hours.
I didn't think much of it because she's always been a bit of a screamer. But then I realized that she had to deal with a lot of stress and culture shock as a little person, so maybe that's what all her screaming was about.
Of course, I didn't realize this until my mom mentioned something (just a few months ago) about Rachel going through severe culture shock when we moved back to the States from Egypt. At the time I hadn't even noticed, but looking back I realize that everything about life in these United States was completely foreign to her. It was familiar to me...but she was grappling with everything for the first time. I probably didn't help her through that as I should have.
But, hey, the first kid is like the first pancake, right?
Now I know (or at least I think I know) better and have at least recognized that my little boy is probably feeling just a little bit (or a lot bit) stressed out about life. He's still his plucky, happy-go-lucky, little self but is trying to sort out all these big, complicated things (like moving to a new place and having a new baby brother and the rigours of formal education).
Knowing is half the battle, right?
If I've recognized that my child is exhibiting a nervous tic then I have half a chance of helping calm his nerves so he can feel a little more in control of his life, right?