Just Stimming…

A land we can share (a place I can map)

Metaphors Are Important: An Ethnography Of Robotics

with 10 comments

First, a story. (A little Christmas story. I call it: the story of Schmuel. Tailor of Klimovitch.)

*****

(The best part of the story is what I leave out.)

*****

I met a mini!Kurt the other day. He was very blonde, with intense brown eyes, but he was very particular about his hat, and his dad was Burt Hummel in all the ways that counted. I’d guess he was about four–his voice was still all exclamation points.

“I’M MATT!” he said, hiding his face from me, and then trying to run out of the waiting room. It was cool though–I don’t know if I even managed ahi.

He was at the stage where he was still mainly echolalic, but he was learning how to store and recombine and modify phrases to work for him. I was excited for him, and almost proud, because he’d mastered two essential skills for that–swapping pronouns, and prompting other people to remember their lines. His dad, trying to bundle him into his coat, was not playing along at first.

“I’M SO CUTE!” mini!Kurt reminded him, trying to make his arms go into the right sleeves. “I’M SO CUTE!? I’M SO CUTE?”

“Yeah,” Dad sighed, wrestling with the zipper. “You’re cute.”

“SO CUTE?”

“So cute, that’s right.”

Mini!Kurt, satisfied that everything was going according to plan, was ready to leave. “BYE!” he called, waving his hand backwards at me, a perfect mirror image.

I waved. Had my mind been more together, I would have flapped.

*****

Echolalia is metalanguage.

*****

Echolalia is an unexpected treasure hunt. You can be watching a bootleg musical you never thought would be any good, but turns out to be beautiful, and suddenly they’re going up the scale singing hot hot hot hot, and you’re back with Kimba, and he’s saying hot hot hot hot–only he’s got this elaborate metaphor about fire and anger going on right now, and here it means I think you’re mad at me, so I’m mad at you, don’t touch me.

And then you’re back at your laptop, wondering when he started watching musicals and rethinking half the things you thought you knew.

*****

Echolalia is what you use when language is too much. It’s just also what you use when it’s not enough.

These things are not opposites.

*****

Walt knows my name, but he’d rather call me Mulan. We’re on the swings, trading movie titles.

“101 Dalmations?” I offer.

“Mulan no thank you!” He chides. Considers. “Rio, with Jesse Eisenberg?”

I grin. I’d only said that once, but he’d picked up on my crush, and he offers it back to me when I am having a hard time with the conversation. I try to remember his favorite, as a peace offering. “Kung Fu Panda II, in theaters now?”

I get it right.

Months later, it will still be the best conversation of my life.

*****

Echolalia, from Echo, of Greek mythos, cursed to speak only through the words of others.

We make it work though.About the cursed: opinions aren’t the same as facts, and no one ever asked Echo.

To be fair, no one would have listened, either.

*****

As much as I can hate words, I delight in them, too. When I’m echoing, referencing, scripting, riffing and rifting, storing and combing and recombining, patterning, quoting, punning, swinging from hyperlexic memory to synesthetic connection, words are my tangible playground.

Make me talk like you, and you’ll get a bunch of syntactically sophisticated nonsense. Let me keep my memories and connections, my resonations and associations and word-pictures, and if you slow down enough, you might hear something ringing true.

These are the words I’m using right now. It’s okay if you can’t see the picture yet; I can’t either. It’s coming together though, the more I practice them.

Ethnography of robotics.

Neuropoetics.

Girls like you always get to see Ireland.

Send my love to the leprechauns.

Please don’t special-episode me.

Why don’t you trust me? Because, honey, you keep setting things on fire.

The first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club.

I think they might be four separate pieces. The joy is how they come together.

The bestworst part is no one ever knowing.

*****

(The best part of the story is what I leave out.)

*****

I don’t trust my words on my own.

That’s not why I echo though.

I know it’s tempting, but, listen.

*****

Or maybe I’m lying, because I’m not brave enough to explain.

Don’t worry though. I know that Kimba loves musicals now, and Walt named me after a warrior.

We’ll get there.

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Written by Julia

February 16, 2012 at 1:33 am

10 Responses

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  1. Today was a bouncy day for my son; school complained he wasn’t listening. I think perhaps they weren’t listening to him. He needed to bounce, on the way home he wanted to skip; I skipped with him and he was happy and by the time we got home he was calm and happy. He only sometimes does the echolalia sometimes, but if he does I don’t try to stop him, I try and listen. I love my wee boy, so much and autism makes no difference to that. Sorry, I rambled a bit then.

    Rachelle Sewsable Crosbie

    February 16, 2012 at 1:49 am

  2. My niece has been
    echoing and copying
    everything lately. She copies
    words from
    upset teens on TV-
    “My life, my family no
    one cares about my life!”-
    when she is
    upset and
    Bounces across the room
    in joy joy joy
    with words from
    Lilo and Stitch on her lips.

    But she’s 3, and
    so it’s normal for her
    at that age to echo
    echo echo echo
    words.

    I can’t find the words
    to say everything and
    so I send her, him copied words
    of my self
    doubt- Fast as You Can
    run free yourself from me-
    and cite, cite, recite the words
    from songs
    saying I
    Love “Something”, “I Want
    You, you so bad”
    bubbling the beatles and
    Fiona and Adele and raging

    Rise Against As I
    “Pulled on these
    bootstraps so hard
    that they broke.” at
    24, it’s a pathology.

    Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone

    February 16, 2012 at 11:29 am

  3. I love this post. Thank you :)

  4. I don’t understand everything you said here, but what I did understand was beautiful. I love listening to you even when I don’t understand it all.

    sanabituranima

    February 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm

  5. This …

    As much as I can hate words, I delight in them, too. When I’m echoing, referencing, scripting, riffing and rifting, storing and combing and recombining, patterning, quoting, punning, swinging from hyperlexic memory to synesthetic connection, words are my tangible playground.

    Make me talk like you, and you’ll get a bunch of syntactically sophisticated nonsense. Let me keep my memories and connections, my resonations and associations and word-pictures, and if you slow down enough, you might hear something ringing true.

    I love this.

    Thank you.

    jess

    February 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm

  6. [...] would be a squid if I didn’t mention Julia Bascom’s post on the subject of echolalia.  It’s a lot more evocative and less analytical; I think [...]

  7. […] Metaphors Are Important: An Ethnography Of Robotics (juststimming.wordpress.com) […]

  8. After two years of getting my head around it, this is still the best text I’ve read on autism. Thank you thank you thank you. And also, also. Also.

    usevalue

    January 15, 2014 at 1:07 am

    • Wow, how often do I forget I’ve commented on this?

      usevalue

      January 15, 2014 at 1:07 am


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