Echolalia is the involuntary repetitions of words or phrase spoken by another person. There are three types of echolalia: immediate, mitigated and delayed. In immediate echolalia the utterances are repeated immediately. In mitigated echolalia the original utterance are altered and repeated, where as in delayed echolalia the previously heard utterances are repeated after a time delay( few minutes, hours, days weeks, months or years).Echolalia can be considered as a form of verbal imitation. It is one of the most commonly occurring characteristics seen in individuals with ASD. Many researches have been carried out to investigate the effect of echolalia on the language levels of individuals. Echolalia was previously considered as a maladaptive behavior,eventually researcher recognised it as a medium for meaningful, self-generated speech with communicative intent.
According to researchers incorporating echolalia results in gestalt language pronouncing style, where the child can break the sentence to words and understand each of them gradually. Delayed form of echolalia even gives information regarding the child’s memory, emotion or area of interest. In addition to supporting language acquisition including vocabulary and syntax development, echolalia even creates opportunities for individuals with autism to interact and engage with others through conversational turn taking, which eventually results in relationship building and social emotional closeness with others. It even serves a variety of communicative purposes and aids self-regulation.
Incorporating echolalia in treatment facilitate better understanding of language, labelling and generalisation. Following a child’s lead by using low constrained language models-like comments, affirmations and reflective questions-one can support natural language development in children with ASD who demonstrate echolalia. This sets up afacilitative interaction style, which can yield more sophisticated communication with higher levels of comprehension.
Jewel Autism Centre - Speech Therapy centre