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What you need to know about echolalia?

The definition of echolalia is:

1. Psychiatry The immediate and involuntary repetition of words or phrases just spoken by others, often a symptom of autism or some types of schizophrenia. 2. An infant’s repetition of the sounds made by others, a normal occurrence in childhood development.

ETYMOLOGY: echo + Greek lali, talk (from lalos, talkative).

There are thought to be two types of echolalia but we have experienced three.

Immediate echolalia, Delayed echolalia and we think there could be stress related echolalia.

Immediate echolalia involves short-term memory. Your child will repeat a word or phrase which you or the teacher etc. have just spoken. This may be because your child is buying time to answer for instance:

You may ask “would you like an apple?” your child may respond with “would you like an apple?”

You may get an answer after this repetition and delay to process and understand the question.

This may also happen if you are offering a choice of things which is difficult for autistic and Asperger’s Syndrome children (choice making needs additional understanding and processing that these children find difficult.)

What you need to know about echolalia?

It is best to offer only two choices at a time initially until your child can manage this.

Delayed echolalia involves long term memory. This form may be functional or non-functional. In the functional type, your child applies a phrase inappropriately from one situation to another situation for instance in an effort to communicate your child may repeat words or phrases from a favourite TV character to speak to you.

In the non-functional type, your child may repeat entire television programs, TV commercials or radio programme dialogues. As parents we soon learn to figure out what our children are communicating though this however; whilst it may seem like a gift to be able to do this, you may notice that this is all your child does and it warrants intervention.

Echolalia is the normal way that most children learn language.

Language begins as babbling. Then, the child learns to imitate sounds, words, phrases, and then sentences. This peaks at around 30 months of age for most children, and then gradually lessens as language becomes more spontaneous.

Echolalia should be redirected and subtly corrected so that appropriate language is modelled and cognition is developed. If your child repeats a phrase, you should put the phrase into a correct sentence.

For example, if you say, “It’s time for a bath,” your child may repeat, “bath.” You would then say, “Do you want to go for a bath?”

You can respond to the echoed phrase literally by following with another sentence which continues the conversation.

For example, if you say, “Would you like a drink?” and your child repeats the same sentence back to you, then you would respond, “Yes, I am thirsty,” followed by, “Are you thirsty, too?” This strategy will help to cement communication skills.

Another technique for redirecting repetition involves teaching your child to say, “I do not know” instead of repeating a phrase. Initially, your child will need to be prompted, but eventually he will learn to generalize this expression which will help prevent parroting of everything that is said.

Stress Echolalia is when the chid is anxious or upset they may repeat the last few words spoken, usually as one word for instance “Get into bed now” may result in your child repeating “bednow,” “bednow,” “bednow”

We have noticed that my daughter will repeat sentences mostly when she is either anxious or when she is excited.