shuddup and trouble

Please note: I’m VERY short on time this morning, so the following is unedited and lacking links that I’d normally take the time to put in. Good luck.Β 

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Saturday morning

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Yesterday afternoon


The hard part of yesterday has nothing to do with the theme of this post, nor what I really came here to share, which is the video you’ll see shortly. But I needed you to know. Because although I’m about to share the awesome, if it’s the only thing I share then this blog is bullshit.

You see, yesterday was hard. Yesterday was shrieking and screaming and spinning hard. Yesterday was lying down in the middle of the floor at the Gap shouting, “I QUIT THE GAP!” hard. (Which was either Alanis Morissette’s ironic or anyone else’s completely appropriate given that they are currently running an autism awareness campaign. As I told a friend last night, I was waiting for them to ask for a donation so that I could laugh maniacally, but I think they were just, ya know, happy to let us leave.) Yesterday was sobbing in a dressing room and finally running for the parking lot with Mama hard.

There was a time that I would have given you far more detail, but I just don’t feel like I can anymore. My daughter is ten. And although she said that I can share the story, a) I don’t think she really knows what ‘sharing it’ means and b) it doesn’t really matter because I’m her mom and I just can’t – or won’t – put my child on display in her most vulnerable moments. So just trust me when I say that there was more — a lot more, and it was hard.

On the way home, I started to compose a Seussian poem in my head — There are days when an outing is funner than fun, and then there are days where my girl is just dunner than dun.

Yeah, it was that kind of day.

But then there was the awesome.

Once we got home, Brooke found her calm by planning a party. She announced that it was YoYo’s birthday and that all his friends would come to a surprise party. And she began to draw them. All of them. From YoYo and his best friend, Hoops to Rapunzel, Cinderella and every character from Blue’s Clues. She methodically drew each one, from Paprika to Side Table Drawer, then colored them in and cut them out. She was at it for hours, with a short break for dinner in between.

And while she worked, we did scripts.

She did the Hump Day camel from the Geico commercial and the Godspell stories where Jesus is too big for the bouncy house and then John the Baptist is too big for the slide. And then we did Shuddup and Trouble. Four hundred and thirty-seven times. And every single time, Brooke laughed. Hard. The good kind of hard. The cleansing, freeing, we’re going to be okay kind of hard.

And I asked her if we could record it. And she agreed. But she needed to prepare. So she wrote the script out. The one we’d just done four hundred and thirty-seven times. The one we do all day every day. The one that she found online in a video that three sisters made of a silly skit that she’d learned in school. A skit that turns out to be all about how a misunderstanding of another’s intentions (because of a misread of their actions) affects how that person is perceived and subsequently treated. Yup, seems we do nothing without meaning here.

She then disappeared into her room.

When she finally re-emerged, she had a bag full of her “guys”. They were to be the audience, she said. She went about setting them up facing her where they could watch the action. She also got her “phone” (iTouch) because apparently, we couldn’t do the skit without applause. Clearly, one needs applause.

And then we got to it.

The skit is about a girl named Shuddup and her little dog Trouble. Trouble runs off just before school starts. To complicate matters, it’s her very first day in a new school where she knows no one. A teacher comes upon her and asks her name. When she says, “Shuddup,” the teacher gets angry. After a few more chances to “answer the right way,” she sends her to the principal. The rest, I’m pretty sure, will be obvious.

Brooke’s scripts started out as no more than a repetition of the last word she’d heard. Then they moved on to two-word phrases.

“Brooke, would you like milk or water?”

“or water.”

Her early attempts to interact verbally consisted of her saying the first half of a word as a bid for us to complete it. It was frustrating as hell because we couldn’t always figure out what word she was trying to get us to say and she didn’t have the wherewithal to tell us. We often flailed and she melted down because we just couldn’t get it.

But we began to get better at it. And eventually, she learned that she could tell us when we couldn’t get it on our own.

And then the scripts got bigger. They were lines from books and television shows or bits and pieces of dialogue that she’d overheard. She’d repeat them again and again and again, using them first to self-soothe and then to communicate with us. She would use the emotion of a character in a script to tell us how she was feeling. We didn’t know it at first, but when we would go back to the scene in the show or the page in the book and ask ourselves what was happening around the words that the character was using at the time, we saw it. And hot damn, it all started to make sense. The scripts were always “functional.” It was just a matter of us discerning their function.

Later, she began to carve out strings and chunks of words and use them in a way that made sense to those around her. They were unreliable, as they didn’t always convey exactly what she needed them to, but it was a quantum leap toward more widely understandable communication.

Over time, she began to be able to use the scripts nearly seamlessly. Those who don’t recognize them often have no idea that they’ve just heard them.

Except for the stories. Those are different. Those are a group activity. Those are interaction. Those are belly laughs. Those are an invitation. Those are the gift that we got in return for diving into the scripts and playing a role.

Those warrant an audience, and applause.

And this is what they look like.

Incidentally, a fringe benefit of all of this is that we get to see my girl’s beautiful eyes full-on. While she tends to be overwhelmed by eye contact with other people, she is able to look at my phone without reservation while I record her, and the result is, well, pretty damn incredible.

I give you … Shuddup and Trouble

37 thoughts on “shuddup and trouble

  1. I am no stranger to bad days, and I don’t mean to minimize how awful they can be, but I really did LOL at :”I QUIT THE GAP!”She expressed herself beautifully, just not the way a traditional Gap customer might. Here’s tp a great Monday!

  2. Thanks for sharing Brooke with us! What you describe sounds, pretty much, exactly how Cymbie’s speech development is progressing. Lots of scripting for comfort, and occasionally she uses them to convey emotion. They have gotten broader, and more complex over the past year. Gives me lots of hope for her ability to better communicate to us, her needs.

  3. My son is only 5 and has very different challenges/strengths from Brooke, but the times when I most see my son in Brooke is when you talk about the scripting and the development of her language. It has helped me so much to understand and accept his scripts. When once I was torn on whether or not to indulge them, now I let them run free. And I see them evolving the exact same way you describe Brookes. It’s been a real blessing.

  4. This is so cute, and gives me such hope with my little girl. She is almost 3 and scripts all the time, which I’ll take because a year ago was non verbal. When she’s upset about anything, she’ll say, “Are you alright Max,?” from Max and Ruby, and every morning when I go to her room, she says, “Good morning, mama, I want out, hold me please,” exactly like that every morning….sounds normal, but its a script I’ve taught her. Every night she says, “Go to bed, night night daddy (even when he’s gone, which he is alot since he is a pilot in the military ) night night mama, sleepy, go to bed.” a very functional script, but the same every night. When did she start coming up with her own language? I feel like with my DD everything out of her mouth is something she’s memorized from TV or something I’ve taught her….is that how her language is going to be?

    • that’s exactly where we were. and in some things, still are. we do a bedtime “routine”. it’s the same every night. but now, woven in, is ‘conversation.’ it varies. we make jokes. we laugh. and then we return to the comfort of the routine. but let me ask you this – do ‘we’ (nt parents) not use scripts too? do we not greet each other the same way, wish each other a good day the same way, say “good morning,” to the barista at starbucks using a script of sorts? we broaden them with time and experience and trust in words. but i’ve begun to view echolalia, or at least my kiddo’s flavor of it, as an exaggerated version of how we all learn to – and do – communicate.

      • That’s how I see my son’s scripts, too–he’s making sense of how we all talk to each other. We were lucky in that no one told us not to engage in scripts. And when the scripts started we were happy that our late talker was communicating, so we followed along right away. His scripts make him happy, calm, silly, etc., and we try to stretch them whenever we can. Those moments when he’s anxious or tired, we just go with the flow and say what’s expected. But they’re always telling us something relevant. Like, oh, the school elevator conversation? That means he had a good day. It may not have involved elevators, but it was good!

      • I talked to her ABA therapists about it, and they told me to never engage the script and always redirect her. I totally disagree, my DD has very little pretend play skills, probably her biggest deficit right now, so we work on that all the time….she could care less about a little people farm, but if I sing old mcdonald…she wants to join in and sing the whole song, and using that I got her to put animals in a barn for the first time! To me, that is using her love for scripts to teach her pretend!! I’m also thinking I can use her scripts of tv shows in teaching her pretend play….What do you guys think?

      • Hell yes! Brooke’s richest pretend play schemes all use a script of a show as a platform. Every one. But that’s where they START not end. There is no more powerful tool for learning and expanding than the things are kids are familiar with, understand and adore.

  5. Oh this is so amazing! THANK YOU. Thank you for sharing this… I… No. No words. I’m stuck in my AMAZING, THANK YOU. (I often use the same phrases over and over in comments and I’m always afraid that someone will feel angry because I said the exact same thing on another post. But I mean it. Even if it sounds the same).

      • I will also send you all the therapists, teachers, and parents that think scripting is a bad thing ok? This is so amazing. I mean not what Brooke was doing because that was funny and very recognisable (looking for trouble! ha!). But amazing that you’re engaging her in *her* way instead of fighting it.

  6. This is SO familiar! I’ve always been willing to participate in Vincent’s scripts, and have always told his teachers that they are, in fact functional. He also started with the echolalia, then progressed to scripting which has evolved to more complex and combined scripts with more and more spontaneous language emerging. I think I realized the scripts were directly related to what he was experiencing at the moment when he was 4 and started scripting,” Harold drew a whole city full of windows!” as the train we were on arrived in downtown Chicago. When he called one of his teachers a “blockhead” shortly there after, I knew we were onto something! (She was!)

    • city full of windows is awesome and the charlie brown reference is hilarious.

      we got a call from school once when brooke had announced that she was going to lay flat on her back and kill herself. the good news was that the aide recognized the line from when lucy pulls the ball out from under charlie brown and he says, ” Ha! You’ll pull it away and I’ll land flat on my back and kill myself.” the bad news was they had to double check because ‘suicide threats’ are taken very seriously. *sigh*

  7. *sniffling* Awesome. Just…awesome.

    You know where we are in the developmental trajectory of language. Far from this place right now, but this gives me something to hold on to as Nik continues to make leaps and strides in his own way. xo

  8. Jess, I think this is one of my most favorite posts!! Sitting in the scripts…..the peace and joy that our children guide us to in their words. The humor….the comfort of repeating what they know. Insight into what hurts their heart or lifts their soul. The rhythm….the cadence that tells us if their heart is happy or if their fists are clinched…..yes, the power of the scripts….the beauty of their words.
    I thank you.

  9. I watched the video three times. Her voice, your voice, the nuances of the story – I love it all.

    I think we all need that applause with us at all times.

  10. She is soo awesome!! Just waiting for the day my baby girl can speak like Brooke! We are getting closer every day! Just this past year …she began using sentences a lot of the time! And her scripting is in the form of songs…she says a few words and then I have to finish it!! I love it …I always endulge it…and the smile on her face when I do makes me melt every time!!

  11. I get the hard.
    I get the privacy. Sometimes, as a mom, I do want to hear the hard just to see if our hard is the same or similar because when we are in it, it feels so isolating. But truly, privacy is best for Brooke and I respect you so for saying so outloud.
    I love the awesome.

    • thank you for this, s. i struggle with how much to share – i know how important it is to know that we don’t walk alone, but i can’t sacrifice my daughter’s privacy for the cause. when my mama gut says it’s too much, i owe it to her to listen.


  12. Love this! It made me grin at work. : )
    Also, thanks for the insight into scripting.At 5, my Liam doesn’t script or say much beyond the “mamma” that he works really hard for. He has a few signs, is working on Pecs slowly, but he’s a whiz at his iPad. I realized a few days ago that he’s “scripting” with it in some ways. Example: he watches Cookie Monster sing “C is for Cookie” a few times and brings the iPad to me so I can watch it with him– and then pulls me over to the cupboard where the cookies are. AH-HA! Likewise, I told him we were going to the aquarium on Saturday and he goes back to his iPad, fiddles around with it, and then brings me a clip from Elmo’s World: Fishes.
    So, this is my thought: as you say, presume competence, and even from our kiddos who don’t have words or echoes, we can still see the attempts at communication, the “scripts” as it were, and try to find a path towards understanding them.
    Have a good day!

  13. Yes! This is all kinds of awesome! You have helped me be better Mommy to my Drama Princess, who is all about the acting out the parts of her favorite shows and inserting her favorite real life people for good measure!!! ❀

  14. Every time you write about scripting, I think of this episode of Star Trek, the Next Generation (; the episode is called “Darmok”, if the link fails). I may even have written before about it, but I don’t think so.

    I know you have better things to do with your copious free time than watch old tv shows, but if you can spare the 45 minutes, this is a beautiful example of scripting. No more details, that’s enough of a spoiler.

    • OH MY GOSH – I am a total Star Trek fan and I never thought about that connection! Brilliant! Next time I see this it’ll be a completely different experience.

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