When your child has echolalia, one of two things happens. Either a) you inadvertently say a curse word that he then fixates on everyday for what seems to be the rest of your God forsaken life or b) he fixates on some other less insidious phrase until it becomes so grating that him cursing loudly in public would be preferable.
While this phrase may seem at first to be harmless and maybe even a little bit adorable, it has its limits. And that limit will come at 4:45 am when a pair of sweet, plump little toddler lips brings your pre-dawn peace crashing down around you by whispering sweetly in your ear, “aye, chihuahua.”
This will only be the beginning.
Time for lunch.
Let’s clean up your toys.
Where’s your cup?
This goes on for months. Strangers, friends and family members will think it’s cute and play his game repeating “aye chihuahua” back to him until they inevitably tire and move on. Doctors and therapists will become concerned. His occupational therapist theorizes that perhaps this is his “power word.”
Tell me, friends, what’s your two year old’s power word?
Friends and family will make suggestions like time outs, ignoring and punishment. Some days pass that give you hope, while other days make you feel like you’ll be hearing him utter “aye chihuahua” on his graduation day.
In the end, it’s not really about the phrase itself. This particular two word utterance isn’t the worst thing he could have chosen. It’s about the anxiety that accompanies the echolalia in general. Ever since this poor child was born, everyone’s been impatiently urging him to develop speech so that we can determine what his vision is like, why he’s not eating, why he covers his ears, why he cries, what we can do to make his world a more comfortable place and on and on. When you’ve got so many big, heavy questions you want answered, “aye chihuahua” is a tough response to live with.
And so we wait, and continue to savor him. Not everyday is perfect but we are present and doing the work. I know that he’s in there, taking us all in as well. My anxieties about him and his future continue to keep me awake at night but I can live with that. Until the day comes when he can tell me more, I’ll learn to love “aye, chihuahua.”