Emma’s Struggle with Pronouns

I have written about this before – Emma’s continuing struggle with using the correct pronouns.  It is something one sees in children on the spectrum.  Pronoun confusion, lack of pointing at an early age, a lack of engagement or initiating play, these are all warning signs in small children and almost all children diagnosed with autism share at least a couple of these.

Emma uses the word “you” when speaking about herself, but also when speaking about someone else.  It’s a word she uses for anyone, herself included.  As in “You want to go on the 4-wheeler?”  Someone who doesn’t know Emma would assume she’s inviting them to go with her and the response is often an enthusiastic, “Yes, I do want to go on the 4-wheeler!”

Emma, then happily runs outside, turns the engine on and waits for the unsuspecting person to join her.  This scenario actually happened with our cousin Max, whom neither of the kids had ever met until last summer.  But when Emma says things like, “Bye Emma!” to the person she has just been introduced to, things get a bit more confusing.

So last night when Richard and Emma picked me up from my store in town, she said, “No not going to see July fireworks.  They’re too scary.  Mommy has to pick you up.”  Then she paused and said, “No, Mommy has to pick me up!”  We were surprised and pleased.

“That’s right Em!”  And then as an aside to Richard, “Wow!  That was pretty great.  She corrected herself!”

Emma then repeated herself several times, “Fireworks too scary.  Mommy will pick me up.”  She looked from Richard to me proudly.  “Good talking!” she said, before leaping into the car.

During the ride back to the ranch she tried various variations on this theme.  Each time using “me” correctly.

It was a proud moment for all of us.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

3 responses to “Emma’s Struggle with Pronouns

  1. Don’t you love that moment of awareness? I remember working with a little boy who would say “can you go to the bathroom?” and I (18, and totally clueless about pronoun usage and autism) would say “Yes! I can go to the bathroom!”

    I also love when they can internalize the things we tell them, like “mommy will pick you up if it’s too scary.” and they can self soothe with that knowledge. One of my little guys today said “it’s ok. It was an accident! Accidents happen all the time!” and instead of having a meltdown was able to talk himself out of it!

    Go Emma go! Rock those pronouns girl!

  2. Hi Molly,
    Great hearing from you.
    Do you work in the field? Have a child with autism? So curious from your comment. Yes, it was pretty fabulous, and she was so, so proud of herself. Just loved that.

  3. Here is an article about pronoun use and autism. It’s good info about brain issues that contribute to it: http://www.brainbalancecenters.com/2011/08/why-do-people-with-autism-misuse-pronouns/
    While my daughter isn’t autistic, she does have severe sensory issues and was (before intensive therapy) borderlined for Asperger Syndrome. She didn’t have the pronoun issue, but did have trouble understanding jokes and metaphors. She is thriving now after 13 months of intensive OT and other interventions.

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