Pronoun reversal is a common characteristic in Autism Spectrum Disorders. I and you are particularly affected. Research suggests this stems from the role of echolalia, or lack of self-identification. Children with ASD often, through imitation, learn language in “chunks”. A child may learn phrases such as, “Here I go!”, or, “I want ___ please”, but without functional understanding or use of the individual words alone. That is, these phrases are used as one meaningful utterance, but the child often doesn’t use the words I, want, go to build other phrases. Therefore, the child may learn the phrase, “Do you want juice?” from having heard it, but then use it to mean “I want juice.” The difficulty continues as we try to model pronoun usage for our children as we might for developing other language features. I can model, “more juice”, or “red car”, but when I try to model a pronoun “I want” it refers back to me, not the child.
So what to do?! First, as a prerequisite, make sure your child uses names consistently and appropriately to refer to self and others. For example, “Johnny jump”, “Mommy wants cookie”, or when asked “Who wants __?”, child responds differentially “Johnny”, “Daddy”, etc.
Then, I like to start with personal pronouns me, you and I. Here’s some ideas:
Snack time: Who is this one for/ this one is for ___?
“for me” or “for you”
-- add names if needed: “for me Mommy”, “for you Johnny”
-- also use gestures and emphasis
-- it is helpful at first to use a 3rd person “facilitator”-- 3rd person sits behind the child, preferably, and tells child what to say
-- visual cues can also be helpful
Bubbles: Who should blow?
--respond naturally – if your child says you but means me, don’t address it verbally (it justs get confusing). Instead point to yourself and blow the bubbles.