When imitation isn’t flattering — 5 Minutes for Special Needs

When imitation isn’t flattering

by Heather M


My two year old has been in a stage of imitating everyone around her lately.  As these things go, I find it pretty adorable. 

Until she tries to imitate her six year old brother.  Not so cute anymore.

Her brother, Will, was born with a rare chromosome deletion that few kids in the world share.  There are other, more specific labels we use including severe apraxia, probable mitochondrial disorder, and the one presenting the problem here….autism.

So, when we’re driving in the car and I hear Will scripting what he sees on billboards, it’s part of the routine.  Even funny.  But when the two year old begins to imitate his very apraxic speech or name things that simply aren’t there (as Will remembers billboards from months ago), it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

During family movie night, when he starts getting excited and begins to flap a bit, I might smile and rub his back.  Unfortunately, the two year old notices the attention he is receiving and begins to flap as well, thinking it is the coolest new thing.  Whoops.

I’ve tried talking with her, telling her that I enjoy her just the way that she is.  But she’s a two year old.  She imitates.  It’s what they do. She has also noticed, despite my best efforts, that Will gets more than his fair share of the attention at times.

In the past week or so, I’ve seen less and less of this imitation.  In fact, she’s beginning to disagree with him when he is labeling billboards long gone.  (“There no hamburger there.  Will, no hamburger.”)

I should probably be relieved by this, but instead, I’m surprised to find that there’s a part of me that’s not.  I knew it was a stage that would pass.  What I didn’t expect was the pang of sadness I’m feeling at the change. 

Over time, she will begin to realize that his brain works differently than hers, and I’m just not ready for it yet.  So for today at least, I’m enjoying the innocence.

Email Author    |    Website About Heather M

After teaching special education for several years, Heather M recently decided to make the switch to full time mom to her three children, ages 8, 6, and 2. She plans to add an adorable three year old boy to the mix in early 2011 when she and her husband fly to China to complete his adoption.

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1 Donkey burger November 17, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Maybe she is imitating her older brother because she admires him, in the way younger siblings admire their older siblings.

In my case, the situation is reversed–I’m on the autism spectrum because of a small, spontaneous microdeletion, which my older brother, and no one else in my family has–but I had to smile at this. That sounded like me as a kid!

2 Kimberly November 17, 2010 at 5:53 pm

My daughter gets annoyed when her younger siblings imitate her. I tell her they just want to be like her. I am more frustrated when SHE imitates them…I guess it’s just flattery everywhere around our house!

3 Heather November 18, 2010 at 9:59 am

I think you are right – she’s imitated him because she looks up to him. That’s the reason it makes me sad (on one hand) to see it go. On the other hand, she’s imitated some really inappropriate behavior he’s demonstrated too, which is frustrating. This parenting gig is a roller coaster for sure! 🙂

4 Heather November 18, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Sorry..this reply was meant to donkeyburger. Guess I have some things to learn ’round here! LOL

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