The first time I felt something might have been wrong was when Karen got all dressed up to go out for dinner with me. She was looking great, and we were about to celebrate my birthday with a nice Italian meal. Emma was standing right next to me, and as we both admired her mother, I bent down to Emma and said: “Look at your mother, tell her how beautiful she is!”. Emma looked at me in disbelief, almost as if she was saying “Dad, she’s right there. Tell her yourself”.
Karen saw I was distressed, but immediately took my hand, “Ami, it’s nothing. Don’t worry.” But she knew I was extremely worried indeed. It wasn’t the first time. I’ve been speaking to other people through Emma on various occasions. Sometimes to other parents at her kindergarden, with the usual “Emma, look, isn’t Itai nice for giving you his toy?”, or to the cashier at the supermarket “Emma, say thank you to the nice cashier”.
I told Karen “That’s it, I’m going to get this checked. I can’t take it.”
Next day, Emma and I went to our family doctor. I told him all the symptoms. Emma started to make some noise and picked up a pen from the doctor’s table. “Emma, put that pen down before the nice doctor gets angry!” The doctor immediately grunted, and leaned back in his chair. “I see this all the time. It’s no big deal. You’ve got VSS”.
“VSS?!?! What’s that?!?! Is it contagious???”
“No, don’t worry. It’s not contagious, and it’s easily cured.”
“OK, but what is it for G-d’s sake??? Emma!!!! Stop it! The nice doctor is telling me how long I have to live, so please calm down!”
“It’s Vicarious Speech Syndrome. You’re talking to other people through your daughter. I have a lot of information, and there are some great support groups for it.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. As I picked up Emma to leave the office, I said “Emma, tell the nice doctor thank you and that we appreciate his help”. I immediately put my hand over my mouth. “Oops. Sorry Doc….”
“No worries. Just go to the support group”.
The next day I took Emma to the group. It was full of young parents like me, with their kids on their knees. The counsellor introduced me and asked all the parents to welcome me to the group. Just then, all the parents yelled their kid’s name and ordered them:”Tell Ami we love him! Go on! Say ‘We love you Ami!'”