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Echolalia: Echo! Echo!

AND Erin Jankus, MS, CCC-SLP Offers Tips And Treatment Of Echolalia


They hear everything, they remember everything, and they repeat everything. Our children repeat words they hear at home or from anyone or anything they hear out there in the 'space" of cyberspace. The verbal imitation of those words and phrases can be both good AND bad. Sometimes hearing a child repeat things they have heard can be quite cute. Unfortunately, not all things out there in the "world" of cyberworld are worth repeating and are not suitable for children. You've heard it said that "kids say the darndest things." We've all been there...yikes!

When Nolan began repeating things that were said around him, I thought, "Wow, this is pretty cool!" He is talking!" Nolan is like a sponge, absorbing anything and everything around him. In fact, he WAS absorbing anything and everything around him, BUT he wasn't able to process what he was absorbing. Not at the typical rate and speed we are familiar with.

Out of nowhere, Nolan began to echo the last thing he heard and/or repeat things over and over again, which is known as "scritping" in the Autism world.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Script, script, script.

Echo, echo, echo.

Welcome to the world of echolalia. Many of you have already entered this unique world.

Echolalia is the literal repetition or recitation of others' speech.

How else can I say it, other than echolalia is...fascinating to me. Nolan can remember and recite the majority of a movie he watched just 1 time. Unbelievable! It is a gift!

Based on a myriad of Nolan's repetitive speech, others around him, as well as myself, sometimes feel as if Nolan's recitation of words don't have a purpose because we can't always know the "hows" or the "whys" he is reciting the words he is saying. We have to take a step back and think about it...

His words DO have purpose, no matter what he is saying.

For example, the self-regulating phrase of the week is "birthday guests at 3 o'clock!" No one in our circle has a birthday now or in the near future. So why is Nolan talking about birthday guests? Can you guess what movie the line is from before I reveal the answer? It took me a while, but I finally figured it out. Wait for it... The phrase is a line from Toy Story, right before Buzz Lightyear entered Woody's life. Buzz was a birthday gift from one of Andy's guests. Ahhh...such a good movie:)



I FINALLY figured out where Nolan picked up THAT particular phrase, but there are so many other phrases and expressions I haven't "cracked the code" to quite yet.

My point is, no matter what he is echoing and when he is echoing it,




According to, "The presence of Echolalia has actually been identified as a positive sign in a person with Autism". A study (Cavass,1977) showed that Echolalia is an important prognostic indicator of language growth."

The ability to memorize movies and the ability to recall and recite speech someone said weeks (sometimes months) earlier all sound great and promising,, right?

Well, not always, unfortunately. There are downsides to it as well. When it comes to reading comprehension assessments, Nolan tends to choose the last answer he remembers hearing or seeing.

Sound familiar, moms?

Once I realized he was just echoing what he last heard, I immediately switched up the questions. I made choice "A" choice "D" and choice "D" choice "B". You catch my drift?

I got the same response...his answer was ALWAYS the last thing he heard.


This is the unfortunate part of the "echo" in echolalia.

With the help of therapy and proper schooling, Nolan has gained several strategies to reduce echolalia and improve his comprehension and communication skills.




As I mentioned earlier, echolalia can be quite fascinating, but it can also be quite frustrating. If we embrace echolalia as a giant step in language development and recognize the self-regulating purpose it serves for our kiddos, maybe we can positively influence more language-learning opportunities!

As Nolan echoes Hamm, the pig from Toy Story, "birthday guests at 3 o'clock!" just as the guests arrive with gifts for Andy's birthday party...

I am reminded that our kiddos have a special gift. They have the gift of the "echo".


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