Tuesday, November 3, 2009

non sequitur

As Ben runs down our sidewalk
Me: What's wrong? Do you want to run away?
Ben: Yeah.
Me: Why?
Ben: All you need is caffeine

Not on my birthday
Ben: Mommy, it's your very last birthday.
Me: Why?
Ben: Because you're the only one who gets a present.

Ben: Daddy took me to the doctor and the doctor said that one day you went to the doctor and said that you used to take a bath in the morning.

Ben: I have a question for you. What if you open six packages and one suitcase?
Me: I don't know. What?
Ben: It will turn into dollars.
Me: Why?
Ben: Because you forgot to put dollars into it.

Me: Can I have a kiss?
Ben: As well as you like!

After waking up in the morning, while still lying in bed
Ben: C'mon. It's under the bed. The table set. There's a cut through the wall.


I'm alternately baffled and amused by Ben's fascinating use of non sequiturs.

I've been trying to collect them over the past six months or so in order to share them with you. I've been mostly unsuccessful, usually forgetting to write them down, but I did manage to get a few.

We hear these non sequiturs and scrambled syntax pretty often. They linger even as his language skills continue to take leaps.

And Ben still has trouble getting words assembled when he's communicating something fairly novel. Sentences will often come out like this:

"Can you... Can you... Can you... Can you... get a piece of tape for this book? The page is ripped."

Sometimes he has to walk around while he's waiting for the words to come.

I imagine his feet powering gears his brain.

I imagine a spinning icon on his forehead that says "loading...loading...loading."

I'll admit that this post started as one of those, "Isn't he delightful" pieces, but as I assembled this list of quotes, I began to wonder: Is this a specific, clinical phenomenon? Does it have name? Is it common? How is this addressed by speech therapy?

What's your experience with language patterns like these? Do you see them in your child with ASD? Your typical child? Do you have them yourself, if you're on the spectrum?

Send me your thoughts as fodder for a follow-up post on this phenomenon.


Heather said...

The scrambled syntax is something we saw in C a lot around two and she does a lot of the searching for sentences/phrases sometimes with odd head gestures or mouth movements---sort of a tad of verbal apraxia coming out (she has dyspraxia) or if she can't find a word she'll go on and on describing properties of it until you understand like there was a picture of that animal like a horse with those things that's not like a horse but with the colors...... (a zebra)

Not sure any of that was helpful, but I love reading these vignettes of other kids because I see pieces of her in it. Her and language have always been the best and most peculiar of friends.

Anonymous said...

Don't get much in the way of these kind of non sequiturs. Her follow ups are more along a different re-statement of what she just said. I'll have to think more about that.

Probably occasionally she does it, but not enough that I have thought, "Hey I need to write these down."

Sarah, my almost-3 year old non-ASD kiddo does it some though. She'll tell on Charlotte: "Mommy, Charlotte spit on me because I'm cold." Okay, then. Two true facts, but not technically related.

Jordan, SLP said...

This is really fascinating, Christa, and I am personally very interested in seeing where it goes next. I would guess that it is a stage for him that's in between the more scripted language and an increase in novel language. I've seen really interesting things happen during this stage but not the non-sequiturs per se. I love that he has a conversational structure to what he's saying, that's really cool. It's like he wants to have something that sounds like a typical conversation with you, he's just not sure how to put his thoughts into words clearly yet - ? Just my guess. I've definitely heard the "stuttering" that's really about oral formulation, as you pointed out, and that does pass as kids learn to formulate their own sentences. I hope you'll keep us posted on this, and I'll be curious to see if other readers have seen kids do these non sequiturs.

datri said...

I know Laurie used to say really wacky things completely out of context when she was younger, between 3 - 6. At time I think it was just her not getting the idea of conversation and just saying whatever was on her mind. She's 8 now and will occasionally say things out of context and when we ask her to clarify, she catches herself and says "oh, nevermind".

aspieteach said...

So, about the non-sequiturs...yes. They come out a lot more in conversation between my husband and me and we never think much of it, and it's just kind of accepted that when all else fails you just repeat a line you're heard somewhere. (We know not to do this in public conversations, though, which takes a lot of work and concentration.)

It sounds like Ben is trying out phrases he's heard in related contexts and they're juuuust not quite matching up with the situation 100%. But they're close!

The loading/spinning icon was a great description! It does help me to flap my arms a little as I think of the word. Again, this is unfortunately distressing to strangers so I only do it at home. But it really helps me think!

drama mama said...

you know, it's interesting - miss m has been making comments lately about 'what it was like when i was little'. she's told me that she didn't understand most things that were said, or movies that she watched, and that she repeated things to figure them out.

she still slightly stammers a bit sometimes when trying to get a thought out, though her vocab is vast and is organized. her friend, an aspie, has a new tick of grunting (ew) when she can't organize. miss m says that she'll get over it - she's 'lining things up for herself'

what i want to impress upon you is that m. is nonplussed by these challenges, and views them as a progression. she recognizes that others have it easier, but in her eyes, that's just the way she (and her friend) develop. 'just a different way of doing things', she says.

what you might notice is that they'll swap out one tic for another; while she stammers less, she does need to move more. sometimes, it's all one perfect dance and she's 'typical'.

i'm going to ask her more about the non-sequiturs and get back to you. i think our kids are fascinating!