I have echolalia, which means that I repeat what other people say after they say it.
Usually, someone says something, whether to me or someone else, and I repeat the last word or two of their statement, several times.
Someone: Have you seen this new band, Bunny Bot and the RoboCats?
Me: RoboCats, Cats, Cats…
Someone else: Oh yeah! That’s my new favorite band! I went to their concert last weekend!
Me: Weekend, Weekend, Weekend…
Someone: There’s another concert this weekend. Wanna go?
Me: Go, Go, Go, Go, Go, Go, Go…
Someone else: OK! Let’s go! RoboCats and Bunny Bot!
Me: Bunny Bot, Bot, Bot…
My whole life, I have been doing this, and it is usually not a big deal, except that people usually think that I am talking to them when I am just saying what I heard with no intention of communicating anything at all.
When I am at home, I often echo the statements of people on TV, and whenever my mother hears me echoing something, she automatically thinks that I am talking to her, when I am not even aware that I am saying anything at all. With echolalia, I usually say the words a few times in a row before I realize that I am saying anything at all, at which point I can stop if I choose.
However, my saying of the words, even once, seems to make people think that I am talking to them, because most people have such a strong communication instinct that they are super duper primed to receive the incoming communications of everyone around them, whether those communications are actual communications or not.
In a thousand words, the situation looks like this:
The mutant three-eared bunny says “hoodoo”, and the bunny bot on the hover rock gives the tilted anvil one little poke with her finger to drop it over the edge, yikes…
But what happens if we turn the tables?
What happens when I hear someone say something, someone like me, repeating some words that they just heard on a YouTube video playing on their laptop?
I am autistic, so my brain is not super duper primed to receive incoming communications and respond to them by instinct. When someone says something to me, it takes me a little longer than most to realize that someone is communicating with me, and it takes me a little longer than most to think of the words that I am going to say in response to them. That is why there is sometimes a little delay in my verbal responses to other people. That was why I usually didn’t respond to people at all, when I was little.
For me, the thousand words look moar moar moar like this:
In my mind, the anvil is not placed, tilted, or ready to drop off the rock. Instead, I have to expend extra effort to push it to the edge of my hover rock, tilt it up, and shove it over the edge to fall on top of the unsuspecting three-eared mutant.
In the meantime, the mutant has the chance to say “hoodoo” many times in a row, at least the four in the picture, but likely moar moar moar. As soon as she says “hoodoo” two or three times, my brain automatically knows that she is echoing, not communicating, so my brain automatically shuts down my process of responding. Responding to a communication costs a lot of effort for me, so if there is no communication, then there is no need to waste energy.
The thousand words can be saved for this:
I completely ignore the echolaliator and continue my happy snappy Internetzing in effortless comfort.
Or moar moar moar for this:
Either way, whether I ignore the echoes or start echoing them myself, there would be no miscommunication between the three-eared mutant bunnies. There would be no communication at all, because the three-ears have the same theory of mind, autistic theory of mind that is not super duper primed for communication, does not respond by effortless instinct, and does not misread the echoes of others into communications or the intention to communicate.
Only when the bunnies have different theories of mind and different numbers of ears is there a dispatch mismatch, a general pattern that holds true in real life eggswell.
By the way, just to let y’all know, my anvil is back from the shop, but I am still waiting for my hover rock to arrive in the mail. I don’t know when I’m going to get it, because I lost my SpaceEx tracking number.