What is echolalia?

Echolalia is a term describing the state when a child repeats or imitates what they hear and can be a normal stage in speech development.

However, some children cannot overcome the phase of echolalia, especially so for children with autism.

There are two types of echolalia:

✔️Immediate, which happens when the child repeats exactly what they have just heard. It can be because they do not understand what you are trying to say and do not know the proper way of asking or it may be because they are conditioned to repeat what they hear without understanding.

✔️Delayed, which is a situation when the child repeats what they have heard earlier and repeat it out of context.Very often, the words that they echo are from a dialogue from cartoons, nursery rhyme or a video that they watch over and over again. So despite the child not watching it, he may start recalling the video, and make start engaging in delayed echolia.

Echolalia can have more than one purpose in autism:

✔️Some children, as well as adults, imitate sounds of people speaking without comprehension of the meaning of the words. They might use echolalia as a mean to calm themselves when upset or met with overwhelming sensory challenges.

✔️In some cases, people with autism use phrases to communicate when it’s too difficult to formulate their own speech patterns.

✔️Memorized phrases can also be a tool for “self-talk” when the child repeats the steps to go through a certain situation that is challenging to them.

Understanding the child that uses Echolalia and what they need it for represents a path to more efficient communication. By understanding, you’ll be in a better position to help the child that uses echolalia.


If you have any questions regarding this subject or you need help with your child’s echolalia, feel free to contact us at info@autismstep.com and we’ll be delighted to assist.

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