Beginning with the degradation of structure at the end of the school year and then again at the end of ESY, Brooke has been scripting and stimming INTENSIVELY. This is a yearly phenomenon – the transition time and lack of predictability / structure take their toll. As her anxiety goes up, so does her need to create sameness in her world. She is therefore scripting extensively – a lot of Elmo’s World, Godspell (a favorite movie) and random stuff from favorite YouTube videos (the ‘No No Baby’ is a current favorite perseveration), books and made up scripts. You’ll likely begin to recognize her scripts as such fairly quickly. For example, if you ask her if she’s OK, she’ll answer, “Just a little sinus trouble; ignore it.” Once in a blue moon it’s contextually appropriate. Either way, it’s a quote from Bert on Sesame Street. Another to note is “You must think I’m stupid” from Charlie Brown. We’ve been trying to extinguish that one for obvious reasons, but it has proven to be a challenge.
~ From our letter to Team Brooke, September, 2011
Scripts. Ah, what to say about the scripts?
We live in scripts. My girl’s speech development was entirely echolalic. In the beginning, that meant that if you asked her if she’d like milk or water, she’d say, “Or water.” The problem being that very often what she really wanted was the milk, but the only thing for which she was capable of asking was the last thing presented. And we had no idea.
Then the scripts became bigger. Books, television shows, dialogues she’d heard once, strings of words she’d made up. Our lives were littered with them.
And then, somehow, with the sheer force of will, she made them functional. She managed to lift and hoist chunks of conjoined words from memory and drop them into conversation. It was – and is – incredible to watch.
Can you imagine having nothing but isolated phrases to choose from in order to interact with the world? Just for today, if someone handed you a piece of paper with bits and pieces of scattered dialogue from Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues and JoJo the Clown, do you think you could use them – and nothing else – to tell the people around you what you wanted / needed / felt at any given point in the day? She did. To the best of her staggering ability, she did.
Eventually, she moved mountains and novel speech came. But the scripts never left.
In the summertime, they are their most prevalent. Call it regression, call it a search for predictability at a time when her world is nothing but predictable, call it comfort. Call it whatever you want, but the scripts are on in full force this time of year.
When I walk in the door from work, I am greeted in the middle of a script. Blue’s Clues and Godspell are the current favorites. Sometimes I redirect her. Sometimes I say that I’ll join in after a greeting. Most of the time, I play along in some fashion.
For the most part, Katie can’t stand them. She calls them the Scripties. Most of the time, she does whatever she can to avoid participating. Sometimes she uses them as currency. “Brooke, I’ll do any script you want but first you have to …” It works. Sometimes.
Determined to find a way to let her use her love of scripts, I searched high and low for a theater group that Brooke could participate in – and happily, I found one two years ago. Ever since, Brooke has attended a special needs drama class in town.
They meet once a week during the school year and put on not one, but two performances. The kids need a lot of help. There’s a ton of prompting from their teacher, Drama Dave to say their lines on cue. Except for one little girl. She’s got the idea down pat.
Last night, after dinner, the girls and I began to play together. (<;;—-I'm going to let that sentence stand alone, if you don't mind. I'm hitting enter now, so we can start a new paragraph and continue the story, but that sentence needs to stand alone.)
Brooke asked if we would play the Worst Pancakes In the World game. Katie and I shrugged, neither of us knowing what that meant, but both game to find out. It turned out that it was a script that she wanted us to follow, from what I don’t know. There were three roles – the CHEF, the FRIEND and the DOCTOR. And it went something like this ..
FRIEND to CHEF, who is stirring something in a bowl: Hey, whatcha doin?
CHEF, while stirring: Making pancakes. Want one?
FRIEND: Sure. *Eats pancake, grabs throat* Ewwwwww! That’s the worst pancake I’ve ever tasted! *Falls down and dies*
CHEF: Doctor, come quick!
DOCTOR: He’s dead. We will bury him.
Last night, if you’d walked into my kitchen, you’d have found the three of us laughing so hard we could barely breathe. We traded parts. First Brooke was the CHEF while Katie was the FRIEND and I was the DOCTOR. Then Katie was the DOCTOR and I was the FRIEND. Then she was the CHEF and Brooke was the FRIEND and well, you get the idea.
I will never forget Katie shouting, “But um, I’m not dead. And I’m not a boy! You’re a stinky doctor!” (And yes, Monty Python came immediately to mind). Or me, playing the FRIEND, lying on the ground as the CHEF and the DOCTOR attempted to ‘remove the body’ – each pulling a foot and getting nowhere.
We laughed. We played. We laughed some more. We riffed off of our parts, using our deepest voices when we were boys and our highest princess voices when we were girls. Eventually, we fell down into a heap of giggles. At some point, Katie hit Brooke in the eye. By accident. And even that just felt deliciously typical. It’s not a sibling interaction until somebody gets hit in the eye, right?
It was John Robison who first said it to me in a way that I really understood. What are seen as challenges for kids like yours, he said, might just be gifts in the right settings.
It took a long time for that to make any bit of real sense to me. I mean, I got it – I get it – but it has taken years for it to really, truly have meaning.
Last night, I’m pretty sure I got it.