Let’s Play Word Associations!

Night – Day

Black – White

Dog – Cat

Everyone knows the word association game.  I’ll say a word and you say the first word that pops in your head.  In psychology, the game is supposed to reveal some of a person’s subconscious mind because it shows what things they associate together.

Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, theorized that people connect ideas, feeling, experiences and information by way of associations.  Jung thought that ideas and experiences are linked, or grouped, in the unconscious so as to exert influence over a person’s behavior.

For me, and apparently many people, word association is just a fun game.  Part of the fun is to see how others respond when you say a word and to figure out why the association exists.  There are logical patterns, such as the opposites I’ve listed above, but the fun comes in trying to figure out the more creative associations.

Which brings me to what is on my mind – the very unusual word and other associations which my son has vociferously expressed in no uncertain terms.  I’m pretty sure that some of his associations would leave both Jung and Freud scratching their heads.  Yet, as a mom, I can give you better insights.  Here’s a brief glance at some things that yield – uhmm — other things in my son’s world:

“It’s time for your breathing treatment!”  =  “Ice cream!”

Breathing Treatment = Ice Cream

As I’ve mentioned before, my son has asthma.  As a preventative measure, he routinely gets two nebulizer (vapor medicine) treatments he inhales per day in 12 minute increments.  No – I do not give him ice cream twice a day for each of these.  Yes, he has had ice cream in the past during a breathing treatment, from his daddy.  He has not forgotten this fact and apparently, it is now forever associated with the words “breathing treatment” especially when his daddy is in the room. Can you say “sucker”?  My word association with “sucker” would be “dad”.

“Yum” or “Mmmm” in response to eating something = “Let’s go to the doctor’s office!”

Yum = Doctor's Office

Yeah, I don’t really get this one except that it may be a sensitivity to hearing these expressive sounds uttered by anyone.  That sensitivity may be so strong that he wants to see the doctor to get medicine for it to go away.

“Kangaroo” = “Chuck Norris”

This is a new one.  No, not a fan.  In fact, I have no idea how this came to be at all.  I suspect it has to do with, again, his dad watching TV while the little guy played with his Winnie the Pooh phone (Kanga and Roo) or perhaps Chuck Norris made a film with kangaroos of which I am unaware.

The associations do not stop with words however.  No, my son is more “creative” than that.  My son is not limited to finding associations with simple words.  Associations are made daily or weekly for this:

Automatic Stapler/Copier Sounds = “Push the PT Cruiser Buttons!”

My son has a toy PT Cruiser.  We do not own such a vehicle.  It is only a toy. When he was younger and prone to bolting out a side door of our office just for fun into the parking lot, we stationed a toy PT cruiser car as a guard to the exit door, which is one of those doors that “must remain unlocked during business hours” per the local fire department.  He fears the sound of the PT cruiser which plays the Ludacris song, “How low can you go?”   He loves this song on an old McDonald’s commercial but hates it on the PT cruiser.  Once our automated security guard was set up, he no longer attempted to bolt out this door.

However, now, if he hears the automatic stapler or the photocopier at our office, at the opposite end of the hall from the PT cruiser sentry guard, he will run in to the photocopier room and demand that someone “Push the PT cruiser button!”  This begging and pleading for the dreaded PT cruiser button continues until we call his bluff and start walking toward it at which point he says, “No! No!  Stay!!”

Other random associations:

Dropping Something in the Car = Krabby Patty

If he drops something in the car like a toy car or phone, he will immediately begin to yell, “Krabby Patty!  Want a krabby patty!  Let’s eat a krabby patty!  Mommy to get a Krabby patty!!”  (a reference to Spongebob, the cartoon and their favorite food, a “krabby patty” which apparently is an underwater burger for sea creatures.)  I have no idea how this association came to be other than maybe he dropped a hamburger in the back seat of the car when he was younger but I do not remember this happening.  I do remember a strawberry milkshake spill and many french fry spills so that’s probably it.

Turning onto a certain street = Going to the Post Office

Finally, there is one street that we take to get from preschool back to the office where therapy happens.  Every single day I drive down this street and make a turn toward our office which is the direction opposite to drive to the post office, about four miles away. Without fail, each time I make this turn he yells out, “Post office!! Wanna go to the post office!!  Post office!”

We have not been to that post office since last year.  Yet, one would think the post office was either holding something or someone important to him hostage or he thinks it is a toy store from the way he yells about wanting to go there.  Yesterday, I explained to him that we are, indeed getting all our mail.  Even though we don’t go to the post office, he is not missing anything.  The mailman delivers the mail to our office and to our house.  This seemed to settle him down.  We shall see.

Yesterday afternoon, I actually talked to him about word association and tried it on him.  I said “dog”.  He said, “Dog.”  I said, “No, you say a different word.”  He just looked at me.  (Cool for the eye contact).  I then gave him an example of “I say dog.  You say cat.”  Then I tried a couple more but he just repeated what I said.

Later, that night, I tried again.  “Dog.”  He actually answered, “Cat.”  I said, “Day.”  He hesitated a little and said “Ni….”  I praised him and said night.  Then, I said “Black” and he said, without hesitation, “White!”  Yay!  So, maybe he thinks it’s just opposites but at least it’s a start.

Overall, I’d say this word association game is not ready to debut at any of my son’s future play dates.  If  he played it with some NT children, I’m sure it would not be the ice breaker that would lead to a lot of social invitations.  However, with me at least, he has a captive audience and I think he’s a big hit.


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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21 Responses to Let’s Play Word Associations!

  1. I think your son’s associations are awesome! I especially love the Krabby Patty one 🙂 Maybe it has to do with a “krabby” mommy who had to clean up the spilled milkshake?

    Kaia has some fun associations too… our town is made up of brand new houses (built in the 90’s) and old houses (built in the 40’s and 50’s). The houses are carefully segregated into newer and older neighborhoods. Whenever we drive through one of the older neighborhoods (it doesn’t even have to be my parents’ street), Kaia asks “nana pap-pap?” When we drive through the newer neighborhoods, she asks “uncle Dave?” It’s really cute 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      Lol! Quite possible I was “krabby” cleaning those messes! Funny how Kaia is using her “deductive” reasoning on those houses! Typical of how smart she is! 🙂

  2. Nina Badzin says:

    Hey there! I found this post really fascinating. It IS interesting to hear how people’s work associations and thanks for sharing your son’s with us. I giggled during the Krabby Patty one. My kids are obsessed with SpongeBob. I honestly don’t get the appeal. They call each other Krabby Patties when one’s in a bad mood. And when they drop something, they say “barnacles” which I guess is undersea language for s**t. 😉

    • solodialogue says:

      Haha! Barnacles does mean s**t doesn’t it? My son loves Spongebob. I can think of worse shows to have to suffer through (and I have). Thanks for stopping by Nina!

  3. Meghan says:

    Thanks for your comment on my site! Your son sounds amazing! I have a lot of experience working with kids with Autism. I think they are some of the most wonderful photography subjects and are so soulful.

  4. Lizbeth says:

    Too cute!
    I feel like I’ve been MIA today—busy with the kids—anyhoo, I love the associations. That’s so funny with the nebulizer because we’d did the same thing but it was with a Reese’s peanut butter cup–had to be the Egg though. When we were running short of Egg’s (cause you can only get so many after Easter…) I had to end the relationship and he looked at me and said, “Mean.”

    • solodialogue says:

      I feel a bit like an MIA today too. Whenever I’m trying to do my other job! When you say you “had to end the relationship” I’m sure there is more to the story than the word “mean”. 😉

  5. Broot says:

    reminds me of something I read in one of Temple Grandin’s books about how those associations come about – a really long movie of pictures that somehow got linked in her brain. Makes no sense to anyone but them, but if they walked you through each picture (assuming they could describe it for you) it would make perfect sense. But the movie could be thousands of pictures long for each association.

    • solodialogue says:

      Wow, that’s so cool that you have read Temple Grandin. You would think I would have at least seen the movie by now. A shame that I have not yet. I will. This is very intriguing because I never thought of my son as seeing his world in pictures although I have heard this comment about Temple Grandin being a “visual thinker” many times.

      You are a bit of a mystery to me. You have this very lovely blog but other than knowing you by “broot” floondragon, I really know no more than your blog tells me. Hmmm.

      • Broot says:

        That’s a bit on purpose, actually. I try to protect my children’s privacy. What would you like to know? No, my children are not on the spectrum. However, my job in an ECE parent-as-first-teacher centre means I have to be able to spot and work with children who are or who may be on the spectrum, and help role-model for parents how best they can help both the children on the spectrum and the ones not on the spectrum co-exist in the same environment. I also have to support those parents who have their suspicions about their child but nothing concrete. My post tomorrow might help with your question a bit, too! 🙂

      • solodialogue says:

        Since I read this, I saw what you meant. Still a bit mysterious, I think…

      • Broot says:

        Might be a bit clearer if you read this post of mine? 🙂 Disclaimer… I’m no expert, by a long shot. It’s my ramble where I tried to figure out what other people already knew.

  6. Big Daddy says:

    I love how he thinks.

    Btw, does Mr. Norris know you are not a fan? I’ve heard he doesn’t like finding out when someone isn’t a fan.

    • solodialogue says:

      I’ve heard this one: “There used to be a street named after Chuck Norris, but it was changed because nobody crosses Chuck Norris and lives.” I’m a brave girl!

  7. Lisa says:

    As usual I love hearing about ur son!! He’s an amazing lil kid, sorry I’ve been a lil lost in posting comments here! But I’m reading!

  8. eof737 says:

    That is so interesting with the word associations. I also noticed that there were different reasons attached to his use of the different words… The ice cream association is terrific.

  9. Nancy says:

    Word association is a pretty tough concept. He did so well using opposites and that is Great!!!

    By the Way, thank you so much for the #FF but I left twitter a few days ago. I’m re-thinking my computer use these days but will continue to check my favorite blogs from time to time. 🙂

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