Sunday, December 18, 2005

Austin Powers, Autism Powers

When you have a language-impaired or speech-delayed child, you find that you want to reward any appropriate use of language, but sometimes that takes you down a road that's even more difficult than simply insulting someone's ugly dog.

Last Wednesday I had an interview to lead a project that I'd be very interested in doing (yes, the job search continues). I was, as might be expected, decked out in interview drag . . . suit, hose, pumps, the full hope-to-offend-no-one interview look. I looked considerably more turned out than Sweet M. is accustomed to seeing me.

When I got home and took off my coat, she looked me up and down and said, "Ooooo, hubba hubba!"

In a similar vein, about eight or nine months ago I was watching on the close-circuit TV at the speech language lab at NYU, where M. has speech-therapy twice a week. The student clinician asked M. if she'd like her to read a story, and M. replied, with the full prosody of Austin Powers repartee:

"Oooo, yeah ba-by, that's what I'm talking about."

The student clinician blushed at least two shades and I nearly fell off my chair laughing.

For the next couple of months, any question that could be answered in the affirmative would, as likely as not, get the full "Ooooo, yeah, shag me baby" tone. I started to tell her that just a "yes" would be a better answer, but the Autisn Power prosody continued.

M. seems to be learning English the way I learn a foreign language. She learns set phrases, complete with inflection, and then deploys them as appropriately as she can. So it's almost as though she's a foreigner, prone to all the blunders and faux paux any tourist might make. I'm not sure where she heard Austin Powers--maybe she saw a TV commercial--but this acoustic mimicry is one of her autism powers.

The trouble, of course, from a parent's point of view, is how to avoid having an already seductive-looking child speak in terms that are dripping with sexual innuendo that she can't possibly yet understand, while, at the same time, encouraging her to communicate.


kristina said...

Now everytime I look at a map of Texas I'm going to thick the state capitol is Autism.


No innuendos from Charlie but I did teach him a phrase I hope he won't repeat in front of his grandparents. I was trying to explain to him why they cannot get on an airplane anymore and (getting a little exasperated), I said "they're too old to ride airplanes!". So now he just says "Gramma Granpa too old!" Truth can hurt!

MothersVox said...
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MothersVox said...

Thanks Suzanne, I'm enjoying reading your site as well. Diverting Daniel is delightful, though I am distressed to learn about your nanny's resignation. I will post on your site about that . . .

About the ugly dog woman, I just wanted to say that I wasn't really trying to be nice to the woman who had been so mean to Sweet M. . . . I just didn't want to be furious every time I saw her walking her admittedly ugly dog. And I figured that if she had more information about M. that she would be less judgmental. As it turned out, with more information, it was me who became less judgmental. Funny how all of that works, isn't it?

Estee Klar-Wolfond said...

He he he...this is a great post. If only the whole world could get the humour, the irony. Thank goodness we can laugh...even about autism!