02 03 Notes from the School Psychologist: How Do I Tell My Readers I Have No Inner Monologue? I Hope I Didn’t Say That Outloud. 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

How Do I Tell My Readers I Have No Inner Monologue? I Hope I Didn’t Say That Outloud.


I once saw this horrible made-for-TV movie about a boy with Autism who was instrumental in solving a murder because he was a witness and he had a penchant for repeating things, and this is how he revealed the killer. Only instead of the classic Autistic echolalia of just repeating what is heard in one's own voice, the boy in this movie took on the ACTUAL voice of the killer and it was comical as the voice of the killer was transposed on this lip syncing boy actor. Um, that’s not really how echolalia works, guys.

I also used to work in a group home with teens on the Autism spectrum who would echo random things back, like “OJ’s going to jail!” or the old jingle to the Ross commercial.* On occasion, I would hear a child echo back a command I had given earlier, and I got to hear how I sounded through their ears. Hint: naggingly annoying.

Now that I have my own little one, I am fascinated by language development. While Toddler B doesn’t have echolalia, anyone who has a toddler knows that they are little mynah birds and will repeat ANYTHING. Be careful, parents who drop a dish and say something in colorful language in front of their toddler. Because one day, that kiddo will use that language in the correct context at preschool and you will die of embarrassment. So I’ve heard.

I get a window into how language shapes cognition and memory every night, as my girl recaps her day and I get to eavesdrop on her through the monitor. I am stunned by what she replays in her mind, her young mind not yet able to tap into Vygotsky’s inner monologue skills.** I hear myself through the voices of her teddy bears. “Oh no, Teddy, we don’t put jackets on dogs, okay?” or  “Oh, you fell? I’m so sorry, mommy will kiss it” Or “I need you to pick up your toys NOW!” If you’ve ever gotten the recap of your parenting played out with stuffed animals, you will be SHOCKED how much is getting into that little spongy brain. Just when you think that little one isn’t listening, they show proof that they remember EVERYTHING.

I see her do it during her play too. Piaget was spot on when he said that, “We can be sure that all things in a child’s life, pleasant and unpleasant, will have repercussions on her dolls.” Toddler B plays out when a kid hit her at preschool and how she reacted, shares her feelings about mommy going to work with lots of bags (school psychs, you hear me?!?), and plays “school” by making all the monkeys raise their paws to talk (tear…playing school just like her mama did when she was little. Sniff sniff).

As a parent, it is a daily reminder that what you say to your child is shaping who they are. As a school psychologist, it reminds me that the kids we work with obviously have inner speech now, so we can't be as sure as when a toddler repeats everything, but we can be reasonably sure that what we say to them can still become a part of who they are and how they think about themselves. 

*Only instead of the full jingle, this gal always left off where she got her great clothes. “Do you love it? I love it! I got it at…Do you love it? I love it! I got it at…” After 3 years of hearing this jingle, part of me wanted to fill in “ROSS!” you got it at “ROSS!” I guess I just like a sense of completion in a world of chaos. But I digress.
**I have a coworker like this too. She likes to narrate everything she does. “I’m going to put this folder here…now what was I going to do next? Ah, that’s right, go to the bathroom…” Not having private speech is cute in a toddler, not so much in a grown woman.

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