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'Scripting' in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Darcy Leoni ., M.S.,CCC

October 22, 2007

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Question

My 7 year old son has PDD. He had echolalia when he was first diagnosed around age 3. He would repeat the last word we said-especially when we asked him a question. This is not so much a concern anymore. I believe the last four years of speech therapy ha

Answer

Reciting lines from movies, commercials, books, etc. is a common occurrence among those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is also termed scripting. It is unclear exactly why this is so popular. Some experts predict it is a coping mechanism that is used during high stress periods, hence, a form of "stimming". Others believe it is just an attempt to communicate in some form and this is the form they know. It does not require them to have to generate a response. They just repeat something they heard and imprinted into memory though it may be totally irrelevant to the conversation. In some instances I believe the question we ask may in some way relate to the topic of the movie etc. and therefore provoke the scripting.

I have witnessed a few different ways to redirect this. Some behavior specialist will use the directive, "no movie talk". I personally have used both auditory and written cues to redirect scripting by stating, "we are not talking about Sponge Bob right now, we are talking about school". If I feel that the "movie talk" is some how relative to school I may follow the child's lead and say, "Oh, you read a Sponge Bob book at school?"

The important thing to remember is that, like all aspects of behavior, the types of scripting and cues that will be effective to redirect the child's behavior may vary from person to person. You may need to try a variety of methods to find the one that gets the results you are looking for.

Darcy Leoni is Satellite Coordinator of Speech-Language Services at The Children's Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She currently works with the pediatric population in an outpatient site. As a speech-language pathologist for 10 years Darcy has experience with both pediatric and adult populations and has worked in many arenas of rehabilitative care. Theses areas include acute, sub-acute, skilled nursing and long term care, home care, and outpatient rehabilitation.

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