An excerpt from the famous Abbott & Costello exchange:
Abbott: I say Who’s on first, What’s on second and I Don’t Know is on third.
Costello: That’s what I want to find out.
Abbott: Are you the manager?
Abbott: You gonna be the coach too?
Abbott: And you don’t know the fellows’ names?
Costello: Well I should.
Abbott: Well then, who’s on first?
Abbott: I mean the fellow’s name.
Costello: The first baseman.
Costello: The guy playing…
Abbott: Who is on first!
Costello: I asking YOU who’s on first.
Abbott: That’s the man’s name.
Costello: That’s who’s name?
Costello: Well go ahead and tell me.
Abbott: That’s it.
Costello: That’s who?
I’m living a kind of ASD version of this exchange every day.
“You got this for your birthday,” he says, holding a crank with a tiny car.
“No, I got this for my birthday,” I correct. He repeats.
“You could eat this,” he says pointing to some mini donuts on a plate.
“Can I eat this?” I correct. He repeats.
He loves the “Easy” button. One of the secretaries in the office of his school had one on her desk. He comes in that office, once a week, for speech therapy at 4 p.m., after the secretary has gone home. Not understanding or respecting boundaries in any way, he used to run up to her desk and push it. His speech teacher told him, “That is not yours. You must ask permission.” ABA then did a “permission” program with him. They thought this worked. Hmmm…
I gave him his own “Easy” button for his birthday. Now, he tells me, “That’s not yours” and points to it. Absentmindedly, I respond “No, that is yours.” He repeats. “That is yours.”
“No,” I answer, “That is mine. You say that is mine.”
“It’s mine,” he repeats.
These words that I have used, without a second thought my whole life, are now huge issues in our household. I never recognized what a difficult concept pronouns are to teach. I wish everyone who sees my son daily would walk around with name tag with the word “YOU” plastered to themselves, so my kid can learn his pronouns. Likewise, I would stick an “I” on him. But then what about the situation when he has to use “ME”, “MY” or “MINE”?
ABA and speech are trying to teach this concept through game playing and use of “your turn”/“my turn” but it simply is not generalizing over to daily life in any way. If he is thinking about it (and I assume so sometimes when he hesitates as he is trying out a sentence on me) he will resort to proper names. It becomes “Mommy’s turn” instead of “your turn”.
In other circumstances, it will be, “Mommy is folding clothes” instead of, “Oh, you’re folding clothes”. He would never turn to another person and say, “Look at her. She is folding clothes”.
If he wants to know where his dad is he will make the statement “Daddy is upstairs,” even if he has no idea where his dad is and even if he knows his dad is not at home. One would expect, “I want to play with Daddy. Where is he?” This is completely unnatural and has never been used in our house.
Sometimes, if he is wants to know what I’m doing, he does not ask, “What are you doing, mom?” Instead, I get, “What is the girl doing?” (At least I’m just a “girl” and not “old woman”). He was asked this “what is the girl/boy doing” question as part of an ABA program. He would look at pictures and describe three actions within the pictures. The purpose was to develop language. Instead, he has morphed this sentence into asking me what I am doing. “What is the girl doing?” or “what is mommy doing” instead of “what are you doing?”
Every day, he has a bump, bruise, trip, fall, bang, bump, etc. Instead of saying, “Mommy, I fell!” he yells, “Are you okay?” If I say, “What happened?” I get a blank stare. I then have to ask, “Are you okay?” to which the response is always “yes.” If he is not okay, I usually get, “Let’s play the CHOO-CHOO game!!” so I know asking “Are you okay?” is his way of telling me he just mildly injured or startled himself in some way.
I realize that his mixed-up words are a blessing. The words may be tangled up like Christmas tree lights in a box, but they are out loud and communication nevertheless. Many children with ASD are nonverbal.
So while I get frustrated trying to convey the appropriate use of pronouns, I’m grateful for my son’s constant verbal discourse. Truthfully, he keeps me laughing through the day. Sometimes, it’s just difficult to understand who’s on first.
[Excerpt of Abbott & Costello – Who’s on First from http://www.baseball-almanac.com/humor4.shtml]