Because he really WAS verbal, used multi-word sentences, knew his ABC's, and was affectionate, it never occured to us that he could be autistic. Even when preschool teachers brought our attention to Tom's differences, we were reassured by the pediatric guidelines for speech development and by the guidelines for diagnosing autism.
In fact, though, memorized speech, also called "echolalia," is extremely common among children with autism. The bad news is, echolalia is not a typical way to learn language. The good news is, it's a great place to start.
By the way - I can vouch for the fact that "video talk" can reflect real understanding. When Tom was 4, we took him to Maine. There, he was able to accurately identify and describe research vessels, fishing vessels, lobster boats, container ships and schooners - all by reciting bits and pieces of script from the Canadian educational program Theodore Tugboat, which is based on shipping in Halifax harbor, Nova Scotia. Who knew?!
Find out more about echolalia and autism - and share your own experiences with