Chatty Charlie.

Autism has no cure.  It’s a neurotypical world.  We all know this.  There are amazing, talented people who happen to have autism, whether high functioning or not, that manage to cope in a world that is largely tuned out and off to them.  It does not appear to be easy.  And though my son is quite verbal, much of his speech has always been echolalic.  Throughout most of the last three years, he has spoken in repetitive phrases, unintelligible to those who don’t know him, and with what language he did use, quite a lot of it was not necessarily responsive.

I’ve talked in bits and pieces about the journey I’ve taken my son on to get him any and all tools to communicate in a world that does not either cater to, or, necessarily, understand him.  From the time I first understood he has a disability to now, his ability to understand and communicate with the neurotypical world has grown.  Not just a little bit.  A lot.  It’s leaving me in constant and renewed amazement – every single day.

I’m not saying there is a magic pill or way to achieve this.  I’m not saying it will work for everyone.  What I am saying is that it is making a difference in my son.  And I want to open my window to you, so you can see it and use it for what it is worth.

The changes were never more evident to me this weekend.  Everything we did together, everywhere we went, he was speaking to me in full sentences.  Not consistently or continuously.  Not necessarily grammatically correct.  Not without his quirks still well entrenched in our daily lives. The difference is that the full sentences have weaved their way into the general daily conversation.

Talking Pizza...

And he is talking – a lot.   Have you heard the term “Chatty Cathy”?  It refers to a doll made by Mattel back in the 60’s and is sometimes used to describe someone who likes to talk.  It seems my little boy has turned into a bit of a “Chatty Charlie” of sorts.

Talking about the bagel. The kid loves talking food...

Let me give you some examples:

Son:  “I want pizza.”

Son:  “The cream cheese is white.”

Son: “Mom, can you come in the bedroom?”

Me: “Sure, what do you want?”

Son: “Mom to read you a story on the bed.”

Son:  “Mommy, I’m hungry.” “Mommy, I want a burger.”

Son:  “Mommy, I want to ride the elevator, one up.”  (one time in the up direction)

Unsolicited:  “Mommy, I love you.”

At Target: “Mommy, I want…….to go home.”

The last one was a big deal.  He has never before told me verbally, he wanted to go home when we were anywhere.  When he said it, I knew he was struggling to get the words out but it all happened relatively quickly.  And, in the middle of the juice aisle at Target, I wanted to cry, because he conveyed something, seemingly so simple, but, in fact, exceedingly difficult.  I did not ask it.  He offered this information on his own.

There was a time that I wondered if I would ever hear the word, “Mommy”  in any communication directed to me.  Now, the word “Mommy” precedes almost everything for which he seeks my attention.  A lot of his messages are simple needs and wants as any other child would do.  “Mommy, I want a cookie.”   “Mommy, will you play Bunny Hop with me?”  “Mommy to turn on the light…”  “Mommy, I want to watch Cars.”

Maybe most moms with young children find it annoying.  I can see how that might be.  But every time I hear it, I smile.  Every time I hear a sentence, I know my son has climbed another rung of the very long ladder he hauls around to reach independence.  With each tiny step, with each sentence, there is a less formidable struggle to communicate, in a world that moves very fast and has very little patience.

I cannot emphasize enough the strange and amazing changes that have come since my son’s EEG revealed sleep seizures in the mid temporal region of his brain.  Again, remember, I had no reason to believe that my son was having seizures.  He was sleeping through the night.  He was not shaking or making any movements that were overt signs of seizure activity.  But the EEG showed they were happening.

He started on anti-seizure medication almost six weeks ago.  Then, only ten days ago he started on Memantine (Namenda). These drugs together have made a tremendous difference in my son’s ability to convey his thoughts verbally, and to notice and process the world around him.

Again, there is no cure for autism.  But when you have a young child who is dependent upon you for care, as an ASD mom, I strongly urge a referral, through any insurance source or otherwise, some way, some how, to a competent pediatric neurologist, trained in autism. Testing will reveal available treatment options (seizures or not) that can help an ASD child reach his or her maximum potential.  I cannot put on paper how helpful the neurology path has been for giving my child tools to process the world around him and verbalize his understanding. All I can do is write this post and tell you – I wish the same for everyone.

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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26 Responses to Chatty Charlie.

  1. Wonderful, wonderful news for both of you! I remember vividly when Little Miss’s communications started to be more communication. And granted, she is still VERY rough, still resorts to idiosyncratic speech, and is often hard to understand outside the family… but it is such a RELIEF to begin to be able to understand your child’s needs verbally!

    Go T! We are doing a serious happy dance over her for you!!!

    P.S. What did you buy me at Target? 😉

    • solodialogue says:

      I’m learning new things about my son every day! And, trust me, we are dancing over here with you!

      As far as what I got you at Target? Why don’t you come over here and pick it up? 😉

  2. blogginglily says:

    That is pretty kickass news! No side effects?

  3. Brian says:

    As you know I’ve been following you and Toots (ever heard of that group, Toots and the Maytals? Old reggae group. No relevance to this though) and it’s crazy that the story of some lawyer from the same city in Cali that my sister lives in makes me so happy……but it does.

  4. Jen says:

    SO exciting! But I do think you will get tired of the MOMMY in front of every sentence now. 🙂 What is the Memantine for exactly?

    • solodialogue says:

      I hope I never get tired of it! The Memantine is actually an Alzheimer’s medication which is used in autism because it has shown improvement in core symptoms of language and behavior. It’s complicated (to me at least) and has to do with being “an antagonist to MNDA receptors and glutamate receptors that play a role in both epilepsy, brain neurogenesis, learning and end stage neuroglial inflammation.” “Over 400 children have been treated with this drug and over 70 percent have shown improved social behavior and interests, and better receptive and expressive language efforts; many have seen better motor processing with dyspraxia.” (Quotes are from my neurologist’s book!) Only known side effect is mild increased irritability.

  5. Denise says:

    Very exciting, very cool indeed!!!

  6. Kelly Hafer says:

    Hey Karen – we are investigating anti-seizure meds for Ted. JUST got off the phone with our developmental ped. Ted has these cycles of times where he is “dead” in his eyes, he drools on himself, randomly falls, and is basically catatonic. Then we have these cycles where he is amazing: clear, concise thoughts and functional intelligence. The doc said there is no other explanation right now other than sub-clinical seizures. We see a pedi neuro on December 9.

    I want you to know, your posting on this spoke to me. It really influenced, moved, motivated…whatever you want to call it…to speak to our new doc about these possibilities. I just want to thank you. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Kelly Hafer says:

      Erm…sorry…premature posting…

      Thank you for bringing all these issues to our attention and for continuing to bring new information to the forefront of our minds.

      • Yeah, this is awesome knews!! Both Karen’s and Kelly’s!!

        We’ve been trying to find a good neurologist, but so far all the calls I’ve made haven’t even been returned… 😦

        On the up side, on one of the local online groups I’m a part or, a mom gave me the name of a doctor a tiny bit far away from us, so when we get back I’ll look into him and hopefully we can get that neurologist’s visit soon.

        Congratulations for Tootles!! He’s so stinking sweet anyway! It must be wonderful having so much more communication. And I’d heard the expression Chatty Cathy… I always thought it was because of the comic strip Cathy, but now I know where it comes from! 🙂

      • solodialogue says:

        I am now twice as excited! I hope you get an appointment soon! And thank you for your sweet words about T. 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      Oh YAY!!! I’m so happy about this and super, super excited about that. You know I adore Ted and I am looking forward to hearing more about this. If you want to talk, send me a message!! 🙂

  7. kcunning says:

    Just you wait 🙂

    My son’s ability to communicate seemed to open up a floodgate in him. He didn’t talk for almost the first four years of his life. Now, at ten, we joke that we can’t shut him up.

  8. So great to hear (literally, in your case I’m sure). We had our EEG today. It was sheer hell, but at least we will know. He is doing such a great job, and like with the escalators, the only way is up! 🙂

  9. ElizOF says:

    Amen to that and how wonderfully exciting your news is… I wish you and Tootles more joy and may others find similar help.;-)

  10. ElizOF says:

    TY for your patience as I have been adjusting to a changed schedule in my life … Glad to comment again. 🙂

  11. srini says:

    What is the memantine dosage u have administered to ur kid ? son is 10 years old and non-verbal. diagnosed with pdd-nos, mild mr.

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