To extract meaning from the perseveration

To read on National Fragile X Foundation website:

The Many Functions of Perseveration

Posted at April 28, 2016 | By: Marcia Braden, PhD

 Perseveration: the continuation of something (as repetition of a word) usually to an exceptional degree or beyond a desired point.Perseveration: the continuation of something (as repetition of a word) usually to an exceptional degree or beyond a desired point.

Anyone who lives with a person with Fragile X is very familiar with this continuation of a repeated word or phrase. This repetition can be maddening when you are the recipient. At face value, perseveration has no redeeming features and simply serves as an irritant, but in the life of one with fragile X syndrome (FXS), it can be a valuable asset. Perseverative verbiage often accompanies arousal and acts as a buffer to reduce the anxiety. The repetition can be comforting like a mantra or song.

Understanding the function of the perseveration can be better understood if one listens to what is being repeated. For example, when a young child repeats a phrase like “And then?” or “Next?” it is easy to understand that the function is related to needing to know what is coming next. This continued repetition serves as a safety net to assure the child that there are no surprises awaiting them and that they will be OK with the plan.

Sometimes perseveration serves as a way to initiate conversation. Often the conversation begins with the same phrase over and over without really listening for a response. The perseverative phrase may be borrowed from an observation, television program or video. This type of conversational mechanism is far different from scripting or echoing a phrase heard in a video. The echolalic response is more typical of individuals with autism (Murphy & Abbeduto, 2007).

Phrases such as, “I didn’t do it, it’s your fault” or “Right on” is more consistent with the speech patterns of those with FXS. These rote phrases open up or keep a conversation going without much regard for the conversation or topic that follows. Additionally, because the phrase can become a trademark of the person using it, the response from the listener is predictable, creating less social stress for the person with FXS.

Sometimes, the repetitious verbiage creates rehearsal of an action or task. For example, repeating the steps of a direction over and over tends to hold information to compensate for short-term memory deficits. Using perseverative talk can enhance overall functioning and executive functioning.

Decoding Perseveration Through Cloze

How can someone “decode” perseverative communication to understand what the person with FXS is attempting to communicate? Using a cloze strategy to finish out the statement can be helpful.

For example, sometimes when a person with FXS is especially aroused, they remember certain aspects of the experience that caused the hyperarousal. They may repeat something like “He hit my leg,” “He hit” or “He hit and got mad, mad.

Of course this kind of conversation gets stuck when one tries to question what happened while sorting out the repeated phrases. Following up with “Who hit?” or “What happened?” or “Why did he hit you?” falls short and may result in more frustration.

Using a cloze phrase such as, “Today at school, he hit you and got mad” will then generate additional comments such as, “Jim got mad, Jim hit me, got mad and hit me, got in trouble, Jim was bad.”

Females with Fragile X Syndrome

Females with fragile X syndrome may also use perseverative speech, but as would be expected, it serves a different purpose. Anecdotal accounts suggest that females use the perseverative talk to emphasize a salient point or to mark a particular aspect of an experience. (…)

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