Sunday, November 29, 2009

Echolalia or erudition?

"You may have won the battle, dude, but you have lost the war."

Those were the words J belted out after a chess game we played today in which I foiled his attempts to checkmate me in four moves, only to lose the game, badly, about 25 moves later.

"Where did you get that from?" I asked him, incredulous at how apt his quotation was. He coyly refused to tell me. So I went up to the computer and googled it.

J's source? Home Alone 2.

This makes me think about how we judge people along a socially constructed scale that ranges from "erudite" allusion to "mindless" echolalia, with academics quoting from Shakespeare at the top, nerdy adolescents quoting from Monty Python in the middle, and, at the bottom, children with autistic spectrum disorders quoting from children's movies and TV shows. This scale often fails to appreciate the degree to which a given person, whatever his/her "rank," is cleverly making connections vs. mindlessly opting out of using his/her own words.

Sometimes a Home Alone allusion from a 13-year-old with autism is more mindful than a Hamlet allusion from a forty-something-year-old neurotypical professor.

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