You've probably heard that pronoun reversal is a common feature of language development in autism... but did you know that it's a common feature of language development for everybody?
So what is a pronoun and why do they get reversed?
What's a pronoun?
A pronoun is a word that can be used as a label in place of a noun - 'she' instead of Deborah or 'it' instead of the cat. So if you replaced the nouns in the sentence ‘Deborah sat on the cat’ with pronouns, you’d get ‘She sat on it’.
Here, let Tarzan show you...
(I don't know why I drew Tarzan with a comb-over.)
Personal pronouns are a subgroup that only apply to people and things. This group can be further divided into what’s called grammatical persons:
Tarzan was quick to master these...
What is pronoun reversal?
Pronoun reversal happens when you use the wrong pronoun for the situation, usually swapping first and second person pronouns (like requesting a drink by saying ‘You want a drink’ instead of ‘I want a drink’). This kind of reversal is common amongst autistic kids.
Why does it happen?
There are a lot of theories flying around about why autistic kids do this.
It's a natural developmental stage
Autistic kids can be perseverative
Autistic kids can be literal and echolalic
Difficulty with modelling
So what can you do to help?
Don’t sweat it.
Pronoun use is one of those things that usually corrects itself as language develops. But you can help things along by:
- Showing them how to use ‘I’ when making requests - ask "What do you want?" and then prompt the correct response with "I want a..."
- Teach explicit rules for using pronouns - When we talk about ourselves we use 'I’
- Don't confuse them - if they say ‘my nose’ don’t say ‘yes, that is your nose’
- Encourage them to use 'me' instead of their name - When looking through a photo album don't say "That's Dylan", prompt them to say "That's me"
- Hold a toy each and take it in turns to say "This is my teddy" (assuming of course that you're holding a teddy...)
- Play the ‘I do’ game at the dinner table - hold up a cookie and ask who wants one? Have each person answer ‘I do!’ as you go around the table (it’s fun for the whole family, although potentially embarrassing at weddings)
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