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3 year old speech - moving on from echolalia but developing anxiety about talking

(7 Posts)
teaandbics Wed 15-Mar-17 14:19:45

Hello all,

(Sorry this is so long!).

My little boy is 3 and has asd. Despite having lots of vocabulary, until about 2 months ago he couldn't really answer any questions and didn't ask any beyond those that met his needs. He wasn't able to have a conversation at all and it's still limited but improving. He's always had a lot of echolalia, still does, although he's getting better at putting it into context. If you model a phrase for him he's also pretty good at memorising and using it again in the right way. (His pronouns really are all over the shop though!).

He's really come on recently and has started to answer questions a little more and to comment on things around him so has moved on a bit from making simple demands, although it's still very limited. He goes to the local school nursery and it's difficult to find out what he has done there each day but we have found ways of extracting information about his day by limiting questions and just talking generally about it, which seems to help him respond. We're very encouraged and it's lovely to see him talking and interacting a little more.

We have, though, noticed that while he's talking more at home and with grandparents etc, he is getting increasingly anxious about talking with his peers. He talks very little at nursery. (They were really excited when he told them he wanted to go outside, which made our hearts sink a little as this is something he asks at home about 100 times a day!). Of course he's more comfortable at home, and although he loves nursery I'm sure it's stressful for him so he's bound to talk more at home. If feels, though, like he'a realising the gap between him and his peers as he can't talk as well as they can, and he's anxious when they talk to him as he doesn't know how to answer. It's the unexpected nature of talking with peers that I guess is worrying for him (it's all a lot more predictable at home with us). We saw some kiddies from his nursery in the park recently and they called him over to play. He bolted and left the park. If we meet familiar people/friends of his in the street now when we're out walking he'll hide behind me or his new thing is to close his eyes when they speak to him sad. Previously he would at least have said hello, or regaled them with sections of his favourite books grin. (He's always been a gregarious little chap and we are pretty sure the change is largely due to his speech. If kids are playing alongside him he's really happy and has loads of fun. It's when they want to chat to him that he clams up and wants to escape. At home he's talking more and more).

We previously had private speech therapy which wasn't that helpful and it feels like we've made more progress at home working with him ourselves. But we're novices and we need more help. We're going to try to find another speech therapist, but for now I guess my question was whether you've had the same with your little ones and if so how you've helped them interact a little more and manage their anxiety about talking to others. We don't push him, particularly as he's sensitive, but we can see that he desperately wants to interact and talk but just doesn't know how.

The other thing I've noticed is that if he's playing in the park and he hears a child saying something to someone else (e.g. "push me higher") he repeats them but says the sound of the words, not the words themselves, even though it's a phrase he knows, understands and says. It's like he hears the rhythm/melody of the words but he can't decipher what they're saying and doesn't hear the actual words. (His hearing has been checked and is fine). If we say the same he can understand it. Again, he seem to want to join in, as he loves to copy what they're saying, but if they respond he clams up.

Does anyone have any idea/experience of how to help him out a little?

Thank you!

FrayedHem Thu 16-Mar-17 23:12:22

It's tricky but don't lose heart as he sounds fab. I think for now it sounds like DS would do best with semi-structured play such as turn taking games with his peers. Do nursery do much of this to help support him? At home I would may be try some modelling social interactions between toys if he would respond to that.

FrayedHem Thu 16-Mar-17 23:13:44

I meant to add, my DS1 used to learn intonation patterns before the words. He's 11 now and it's long since resolved.

teaandbics Fri 17-Mar-17 06:13:45

Thanks so much.

Nursery have been a bit slow off the mark with things but they're willing, so I will ask them about doing some turn taking games with him, which is a great idea. I think because he's talked so little there they see any speech/interaction as a massive improvement (which it is), but don't quite get how shy/anxious he's becoming. I think turn taking in a supported environment is a good way to open him up a bit (hopefully) without it being too stressful for him.

That's interesting about your little one and learning intonation patterns first, and great to hear it's all sorted. I'm finding the way our kiddies learn language to be constantly fascinating, if tricky to deal with! (Currently trying to work out pronoun confusion e.g.
Ds: (grabbing something) "it's mine"
Me: "it's not yours"
Ds: "it's yours" (meaning it's mine)
grin

Thanks again.

teaandbics Fri 17-Mar-17 08:27:36

And yes, I'll try modelling social interactions with his toys at home. His play skills have decreased whilst his speech has improved, but I'll give it a try and this may be a good way to combine the two. Thanks again

FrayedHem Fri 17-Mar-17 12:47:57

It's easy for the more passive child to get a bit overlooked but if they have a willing attitude a gentle nudge could do wonders. The more he is encouraged to engage in low level verbal play the more it should boost up his play skills. Make it clear you don't want it forced though.

Also maybe try and make a point of inviting DS to play with you with a familiar phrase that may help him if he wants to initiate play with a friend. He may feel more able to engage with his nursery mates if he can instigate it. And I think sometimes going a bit shy can be a typical development phase, but you're wise to monitor his anxiety if it becomes very dominating iykwim.

Totally anecdotal, but DS1 relied heavily on cut and paste phrases through the preschool years. By Yr3 his class teacher referred to him as the in class thesaurus. Unthinkable at 3.

teaandbics Fri 17-Mar-17 15:26:34

That's all so helpful, thank you so much. He does ask us to play with him, so if we can develop that (and work on our own phrases when inviting him to play) that will hopefully help him have an 'in' when approaching other kiddies to play. I think you're completely right that he needs to feel confident instigating play and. Urgently he definitely isn't. And, yes, hopefully this will all help to improve his play skills.

That's brilliant about your son's language skills! It's hard to imagine that language will become spontaneous, so it's wonderful to hear how your boy's speech has developed.

Thank you so much. I have lots of things to try!

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