Wednesday, June 14, 2006

On the Value of Repetition and Novelty

Yesterday we had to be out of the house just slightly after 7 am to be in town for Aidan’s surgery consult at 8:30. We managed somehow! It takes some time to dress both the little ones and gather everything we need for a day in town and shopping trip — stroller, coolers, seizure meds, bandage supplies, something to eat in the car — well, I fell down there and they ended up with the remainders of a package of peanut M&Ms.

Aidan has been exhibiting a lot more of what I think they call “echolalia” — he must have said “The monkeys!” about a hundred times yesterday. The new one: “each sold separately by Hasbro.” He says it very fast under his breath just like the auditory “fine print” in a commercial. The article I linked to says that this is often a more functional habit than people would think. The monkey one appears to me as a shorthand way of cheering himself up. He thinks the monkeys in the jungle and the kitties by the office are very funny so when he’s in pain or anxious, he reminds himself that there’s still fun and enjoyment in the universe. Good strategy. The Hasbro one sounds more like his enjoyment of things that sound odd and interesting or are articulated in an unusual tone. He has been able to memorize extensive sections of songs and poems because of his love for intriguing combinations of words and intonations. Sometimes when I am talking to one of the older kids and use a large word he will beam and ask me to repeat it again and again. The same thing happens when I read him a story. He will get fixed on one page.

SO, anyway, back to the journal– he got himself into a spiral of anxiety while we waited in the clinic for the doctor (note to myself: experiment with bringing distractions for him to occupy himself with) but was able to pull himself out of it with my help as we ran through all his jokes until we came to one that hit the right note.

Then he was a BIT nervous while I talked to the doctor but in general did pretty well. For the surgery we are supposed to come in at 6:30 am next Monday. So we may stay at Grandpa’s house the day before so we don’t have to get up at 5 am or earlier.

Then we went shopping, got Liam’s cake and lots of other much needed groceries, plus a stopwatch at the sports outlet.

I came to the gradual awareness that I was coming down with a cold. Today it’s perfectly obvious, but yesterday I just felt low and tried to counter-cope by a rush of activity when we got home. Unloaded groceries (with kids’ help), made a fire and cooked sausages and pancakes, did laundry. Took the little ones outside, timed Sean with the stopwatch, then timed Aidan and Paddy who got into it too.

Then came back inside and fell asleep and Clare ended up making dinner. Ahh… Aidan was very stressed and whiny all afternoon but slept with me for a bit and woke up in a better frame of mind. I made him Rice Krispy squares after dinner and he ate several of them. I also pushed him around in the wheelchair for a long time, while Clare played Cats. You should see his thoughtful face while he listens to “Memories” –so cute.

In the evening I played a form of chess with Liam — they have changed a couple of the rules, like letting the King move like a queen unless it is in check. The queen moves like a King but if she gets captured, you can bring her back right away by moving a pawn. This led to a game with many many reversals. It ended up as a draw with only the Kings and one Castle on the board.

I did some online shopping for Liam’s birthday and need to do a bit more for Brendan’s. Amazon is great. Liam has requested classical music CDs and I also got him a couple of fun-looking Latin supplemental resources.

To justify the philosophical-sounding title. I notice that Aidan’s echolalia helps him in several ways — the repetition helps him cope emotionally AND intellectually. Plus it allows him to build syntactical and vocabulary patterns in his mind. Borrowing complex phrases from other environments, in the long run, seems to have allowed him to invent his own similar ones.

In a similar way, the boys’ familiarity with basic chess rules has given them a foundation for experimenting with new but more or less functional rules of their own. Playing a chess game with slightly different rules gave me better insight into how the game’s rules evolved in the first place — the strategic balance — and also kept my mind in an exploratory, creative mode since we had to constantly work to be open to the novel possibilities inherent in the modified rules.

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