Echolalia……….What It Is and What It Means

Echolalia…What It Is and What It Means

Echolalia is repeating or “echoing” what another person has said. Children who are echolalic imitate what they have heard someone say in everyday life, lines they’ve listened to from a book, lyrics to a song, or a script from a show or movie. Professionals most often characterize children as “echolalic” when many of the words or phrases a child uses seem to be repetitions from a previous activity rather than new utterances a child comes up with on their own.

Children with echolalia use what many parents describe as “more advanced language” than they can typically generate. For example, a toddler who is exhibiting echolalia can quote long segments from a favorite TV show or sing an entire song word for word, but he can’t ask for milk when he needs it or answer a question his dad asks him. Even though this child “talks,” since he can technically say lots of words, he doesn’t seem to completely understand what he’s saying. In essence, he’s just repeating words without really being able to “use” them.

Echolalia is one of the characteristics sometimes noted in children with autism. In fact, researchers have found that up to 85% of people with autism who are verbal exhibit echolalia in some form. The silver lining in this is that echolalia is actually a positive sign that children with autism may eventually be able to learn to use language to communicate.

Echolalia is also a part of normal language development. This phase begins around 18 months of age when a child has mastered imitating words and is just beginning to imitate phrases. Experts tell us that echolalia peaks around 30 months of age, and declines significantly by the time a toddler turns three. This coincides with a child becoming conversational and truly beginning to talk on his own, generating his own original thoughts, asking new questions, and responding to questions appropriately.

In children with autism, echolalia occurs with greater frequency and lasts for a longer period of time than it does in children with typically developing language. For example, a child with typically developing language may be able to quote a few phrases from a favorite TV show, sing a song, or learn to count to ten by rote. However, he doesn’t do this repetitively several times a day, and when he does do this, it seems to “fit” what’s happened rather than leaving adults or other children around him wondering, “Okay…what’s that about?”

Children with motor planning issues, or apraxia, also can “get stuck” in this phase for a couple of different reasons. First of all, children with apraxia begin speech therapy with very poor imitation skills. Once they learn how to repeat what they’ve heard, they seem to want to hang onto this phase for a very long time. Secondly, repeating may become the “motor plan” they learn best, and it may be easier for some of these children to map a previously rehearsed message than to come up with a new one. (Although it is true with apraxia that children can come up with spontaneous utterances better than imitated ones, this is not usually the case once they have been in therapy for a while. It may be easier to pull out a tried-and-true phrase or sentence than learn a whole new one.)

Echolalia is classified as immediate echolalia or delayed echolalia.

Immediate echolalia is the repetition of words or phrases that occur immediately or very soon after the original words are spoken. An example of immediate echolalia is the child who repeats a question such as, “Do you want some juice?” rather than responding yes or no.

Delayed echolalia is the repetition of words or phrases that are echoed after the fact, even hours, days, weeks, or months later. An example of delayed echolalia is a child who might sing, “Happy Birthday” when someone new enters her home.

Echolalia can also include not only the words spoken, but the exact imitation of a person’s inflection, tone of voice, and volume.

Professionals used to view echolalia as something that should be eliminated. However, current researchers tell us that many times echolalic speech can serve a purpose for children with autism. For example, a child who wants to go outside may say to his mother, “Let’s put your shoes on,” as his way of requesting this activity since he’s heard his mother say this many times just before he gets to leave the house. A child may say, “Want me to hold you?” when he’s crying or “It’s okay, Ben,” when he’s upset since his parents have said this to him in this context over and over again.

I’ll give you another real-life example. A darling little boy on my caseload last Christmas called Santa Claus “It’s Santa,” all season long because the first time his mother taught him this word, she declared enthusiastically, “It’s Santa!” He lifted the whole phrase and his mother’s elevated and joyful tone of voice as this character’s name. When his teacher at preschool asked him, “Who’s that?” it was appropriate for him to respond in this way, but during a speech therapy session when I gave him a choice for play by asking, “Do you want Santa or this reindeer?” and he replied, “It’s Santa,” it didn’t make much sense.

In these cases echolalia is representative of the way these children process information. They learn in “chunks” without processing meanings of individual words. This learning style is called a “gestalt” style of language acquisition. Children who learn this way also process the sensory and emotional components of the event. In the previous example with Santa, the little boy processed “It’s” as a part of Santa’s name, along with the enthusiasm in his mother’s voice. Every time he said this, he repeated it in just the way she originally said it to him, beginning shortly after Thanksgiving and lasting well into January.

Sometimes echolalia does not serve an identifiable purpose. For example, consider the child who repeats every line from the book “Go Dog Go” for no apparent reason while in the grocery store. There’s no dog in sight and no link to associating this book, but she recites it while riding in the cart while her mother selects food.

I try to teach parents with children who seem to be stuck in echolalia to look at this as an opportunity for us to know exactly what he or she is having difficulty learning. Echolalia can serve a purpose for us. For example, the child who is walking around aimlessly quoting a movie or book may need help in finding an appropriate activity, or he may be feeling stressed or anxious and use this routine to calm himself. A child who asks her mother, “Do you want a cookie?” needs help in learning to initiate requests in a more appropriate way. A child who repeats a question needs help learning the meaning of the words so he can accurately process the question, or he may need specific cues to learn exactly how to answer. A child who repeats, “Good job (her own name)” needs to learn a declarative phrase such as, “I did it!” A child who repeats his brother’s words may just be trying to take a turn in conversation and doesn’t know what else to say.

By taking a moment to determine if the echolalic utterance serves a purpose, discovering what the child’s intent is, and then finding ways to teach your child what he should say in this context, you’ll be much more effective than trying to eliminate echolalia.

Look for a follow-up article this week for more specific ideas to work on functional language for children with echolalia at home and during speech therapy sessions. Laura

 

Comments

  1. anon says

    My son is about to turn 3 and i think he may have echolalia but does not have autism and this is confirmed by our pediatrician. The issue I see is that if a friend or relative asks him how are you he doesn’t say fine, he will say something which is associated with that person eg. A friend showed him the moon so he responds where is the moon. Do you think this is an issue. My son has yet to go to a speech pathologist but I want to take him to one. Any suggestions to a stressed out mother welcome.

  2. Laura says

    Anon – Please read my articles in the receptive language section about answering questions. Here are the links for the ones I’d try first.

    Techniques to Work on Answering Questions

    link 1.

    and Improving Receptive Language Skills

    link 2.

    Hope this info helps! Laura

  3. Jo says

    Can a child have echolalia without autism? Can he grow out of it and learn to make spontaneous speech? What kind of therapy is needed? The boy is 7.

  4. Laura says

    Echolalia can be associated with other kinds of speech-language issues. It is a part of normal language development, but at a much younger age than 7. I would highly advise you to have him evaluated by a speech-language pathologist. This can be done thru a speech-language pathologist in private practice, thru a children’s hospital, thru a university speech and hearing clinic, and if you live in the USA, thru your local public school system, even if your child does not currently attend public school. Please discuss this with your child’s doctor. In my opinion, this could be a very serious issue at 7, but I have not seen your child, so I cannot give you more specific advice other than to have him evaluated by a competent professional. Laura

  5. Jo says

    Thanks, Laura. I live in Malaysia and it’s hard to find a doctor who truly understands developmental disorders. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

    I think this boy may be on the autism spectrum (he has other symptoms). If echolalia is a good sign that the child is developing speech, does this mean that he will someday be able to communicate with his own words?

  6. Laura says

    I never give up on a child learning to communicate, so 7 is not going to be TOO old, but my primary clinical experience in language development is birth to 3 and then early preschool years. Keep looking for a professional there to help you since she/he will be able to see your child and make recommendations that are specific to him. Are you in/near a city so that you have access to a children’s hospital? ASK ANYONE who might have any prior experience if they know how to locate a speech-language pathologist – teachers, physicians, social workers, dentists, or any mother who looks like one of her children has special needs.

    I once treated a little boy whose parents who were Christian missionaries in Malaysia while they were home in the US on furlough. Their son had Down Syndrome, and he was able get speech therapy from a person in private practice, so keep looking for one, even if she’s hard to find.

    If anyone else has ideas for how Jo can find a therapist in Malaysia, please respond. Laura

  7. Ashi says

    hi laura,

    wants to know more about phonological disorder as my son has problems in saying some words like with sounds of “L” i.e will say chocate rather than choclate , and with sound of “R” and N”, Moon will be “moo”.
    thanks

  8. Laura says

    Ashi – Here’s an article explaining phonological disorders. Hope this helps!

    http://teachmetotalk.com/2008/03/16/is-it-apraxia-or-a-phonological-processing-disorder-sorting-out-the-differences-in-toddlers-preschoolers-2/

    But let me encourage you to spend most of your time focused on LANGUAGE with him. Any child with both receptive and expressive language issues PLUS autism PLUS the whole bilingual issue has a lot on his plate so that articulation would be the least of my concerns for him if I were you. My advice would be to focus on what he communicates by improving language FIRST, then worry about speech sounds later. Again – I hope you have a great SLP you’re working with so she/he can help you sort all of this out and prioritize your goals for him! Laura

  9. Anonymous says

    Dear Laura

    My 32 months old son had some kind of speech delay. At 18 months he was saying 10 words, at 24 months he was still at 10 words. We enrolled him in speech therapy once/week. At 28 months Andrew was still behind with his language but at 32 months he tested appropriate for his age on receptive language and above his age on expressive language. We use 2 different languages at home and his preference was English so he was tested in English.However since his grandma moved in with us and now is more involved in his life he likes to speak French as well and speaks it sometimes better than English. Most of his language came in just 3-4 months ago and while we are ecstatic to hear him talking we are also concerned about the huge ammount of echolalia he is using on his speech. We already booked an appointment with a developmental pediatrician to get an assessment but the assessment will be in 4 months from now. Is there any chance that he might be echolalic without being autistic? From your article echolalia peeks arround 30 months of age (which will be his corrected age because he was born earlier)….Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks,
    Niki & Andrew M.

  10. Laura says

    Anonymous MOM and DAD – He could be echolalic without being autistic, especially considering his language delay. However, if you have any suspicions about autism, please follow your gut instincts and have him evaluated by the developmental ped. I am wondering if your SLP ever mentioned this possibility to you? Let me also caution that sometimes children are technically “talking” but not really using their words to communicate. Is he initiating conversation and asking for things he needs? Is he asking & answering questions? Does he exhibit any of the other signs/symptoms of autism other than echolalia? These are questions that will also let you know if you should follow thru with the dev ped appointment. Hope this helps! Laura

  11. SLP says

    Can a child have BOTH immediate and delayed echolalia? I work with a student who presents with both forms and little spontaneous language.

    Is there a term if both are present? Are there any treatment techniques?

  12. Laura says

    I have seen children with delayed and immediate echolalia. When I document this, I note both. Glad you’re enjoying the site! I also wanted to let you know about an upcoming segment of my podcast, Teach Me To Talk with Laura and Kate. During December we’ll be discussing echolalia and treatment techniques. Hope you can join us! Laura

  13. jenn says

    my son is 5.5 years old and he repeats (in a whisper) things that HE has said not others, is this considered echolalia? He has been doing it for a really long time-

  14. Laura says

    Jenn – That’s a good question, but before I weigh in, I’d like to ask you a few questions about him. Does he use spontaneous language? How often does he do this? Does this interfere with his ability to communicate with others? Is he really repetitive with this? Does he get speech therapy, and what does his SLP think? Laura

  15. Michael W. Casby says

    Excellent resources for parents, professionals, and students. The content and processes presented are very contemporary and appropriate for work with young children. Very nice work here; very enjoyable and educational.

  16. Anonymous says

    Hi Laura, my son is 28 mos. old and is into speech therapy for the past five months due to receptive and expressive language delay. I’ve also been using the techniques from your dvd teach me to listen and obey and teach me to talk. His receptive language has dramatically improved and he can follow numerous commands, but his expressive language is still delayed. Recently, he’s starting to imitate words when I ask him to, like if he wants to eat he says “eat” then I ask him to say “cracker” and he will say “cacker”. If I say where’s the tree or car or flower etc. he will point to them and say the words sometimes not so clearly. This was a big improvement from him. My concern is how will I know if it is echolalia? I’ve been waiting for him to finally imitate my words, but now I’m scared what if all this is considered echolalia. His SLP says he has good joint attention, great attention span, his eye contact is not that good, but improving.

    Another thing we’re worried about is that we noticed he is doing a lot of toe walking lately.

    Hoping to get feedback from you. Thanks!

    Joy

  17. Hazel says

    Hi Laura,

    My son is 28 mos. old was diagnosed with receptive and expressive language delay when he was 22 mos. old. He is currently into speech therapy.
    I’ve also been working with him at home using the techniques I got from your Teach Me To Listen and Obey and Teach Me To Talk DVD’s. His
    receptive language has tremendously improved, and he can now understand most of our commands. His expressive language is still delayed though.
    Recently, he started to imitate words that I speak. Example if he wants a cracker he will use sign language at the same time he will say the word “EAT”,
    I will then ask him to say the word “cracker” , which he will follow with “cacker”. If I ask him to point to his eyes, nose mouth, he would say the word
    “eyes”, “N” for nose, “mott” for mouth, etc. If I ask where’s papa?, where’s the tree, flower, car?, etc. He would point and say the words although
    some not perfectly clear like tree is “tee”, car is “cah”. This was a huge development for him. Now that he’s starting to imitate words, I am concerned
    what if all these is echolalia? How will I know?

    Another thing that bothers me is we noticed he is walking on his toes more often now than before. Other than these he seems ok. He has good joint
    attention, great attention span according to his SLP. His eye contact is not so good, but he is improving. His motor skills both gross and fine are ok.
    He also has very good visual-spatial skills.

    Hoping to get your feedback on these.

    Li

  18. Hazel says

    Hi Laura,

    I’m hoping to get feedback from you. I think I posted twice ‘coz I thought the first one didn’t go through.

    Thanks!

  19. Laura says

    Hazel – I thought I’d already responded to you, but I don’t see that post either!!

    Don’t worry about echolalia at this point. Usually that’s more with kids who quote entire sections of movies, songs, etc… without understanding the words or using very many single words. What you’re describing sounds like normal imitation – the kind you WANT to see in expressive language development with new talkers. The truth is, even echolalia is a good prognostic indicator that a child will eventually talk on his own, vs. not saying anything, even in imitation.

    From what you’ve said, it sounds like he’s making good progress in a short amount of time! Keep using the strategies you’re learning from the DVDs and from your SLP. If she’s not worried about his attention and participation, then you shouldn’t be overly concerned either. It sounds like he’s on the right track, and based on what you’ve said, so are you!! Hang in there!! Kids don’t go from a huge delay to “typical” overnight, so keep celebrating his successes, as I know you are! Thanks for your questions!! Laura

  20. tracy says

    Hi Laura, you mention that it is not correct for an SLP to model two word utterances like” big ball” or “blue truck” when attempting to increase utterance length, could you explain why? thank you.

  21. Laura says

    Tracy – If I knew what context you’d heard me say this in, I’d be happy to explain what I meant, but I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about. Did you hear me say that on a podcast, or was it in something you read here on the site? Give me more information, and I’ll be more than happy to explain my train of thought. Laura

  22. mital says

    Hi,

    My son is 4 1/2 years old. Few months ago, we came to US. Previously we were in India. We got the diagnosis of language delay when my son was 2 years old – From that day
    onwards my family and I were working hard to teach him
    our native language and by age 4 he was able to talk complete sentences and able to understand and answer
    wh questions (why and when rarely)but he had delayed echolalia and limited eye contact and less interested in peer play.
    In US, he been recently dignosed as having mild ASD. We put him in a disabled preschool here last month and he has started learning english – he can now understand basic sentences in english but answers in our native language.

    The thing I always worry about him is this delayed echolalia. He has this, if he is so excited or engaged in some activity like drawing etc,. He is having a high pitched voice and I took him to the park last week he was sitting on the slide and telling to himself “come dog, come on will you bite me?” in our native language even though there was no dog out there and every one in the park looked
    differently at him. Will this be for him for the lifetime or will he outgrow or In what ways I can help him out?

  23. Matt says

    Laura,
    My son has always been a little behind on speech, lots of grunting for a while, then a few words came, now at 3 everything is words, however some of it is echolalia. He repeats a lot of phrases, but all are in an appropriate manner or situation (“Stay in the driveway”, or “Stay by the car”) He also has immidiate echolalia where he repeats questions or statements we make. At the same time he can tell us what he wants, initiates many observations on his own and answers most yes/no questions and a few other questions where a choice needs to be made. We are in the process of a speech evaluation and of course the potential of Autism has been thrown on the table by a few observers. Echolalia is the ONLY trait that he demonstraits on the spectrum. Otherwise, he follows and understands directions, overall is well behaved, makes eye contact, doesn’t have any sensory issues, while a little shy still he still likes to play with kids he is familiar with and doesn’t have any odd hand motions or is obsessed with spinning or other type of visual stimulus. We do not think its Autism. Can Echolalia exist outside of autism? (and be corrected)

  24. Laura says

    Mital – First of all congratulations in doing the right thing in getting your son’s language delay diagnosed at such an earlier age and then working with him so that he’s now using full sentences. As I’m sure you know, echolalia in autism, even mild autism, is difficult to treat. It’s also equally difficult to look at a child at 4 and predict what he’ll look like at 6, or 10, or 18. The experts tell us that echolalia is likely to be replaced by novel language as children progress. However, some people with autism use echolalia as a way to help themselves regulate even into adulthood. What you can do is keep him in treatment as long as he needs it followed by lots of “work” at home to make sure you’re doing your part in helping him to learn more complex language. Also ask your SLP at school what else you can do to help him at home. Thanks for your question. Laura

  25. Laura says

    Matt – He will not be diagnosed with autism if he does not meet the criteria, and echolalia alone will not make him eligible for this diagnosis. However, let me gently add that sometimes parents come to me with what they think is “only one” characteristic of autism when in fact, there are other subtle markers that a parent, in our devoted affection for our children, have chalked up to “his personality” or a “quirk.” This may not the case at all with your child, so please don’t get offended, but it does happen consistently in my practice, so I’d like to provide a word of caution for parents who may be reading this and in that situation.

    As children learn more language, echolalia should decrease as novel words, phrases, and sentences replace the repeated ones. Some children are more repetitive than others when learning language, especially when there have been delays, as in your son’s case. What I’d encourage you to do is to keep targeting that language at home and get him in speech therapy to give him and you new treatment ideas.

    Thanks for your question and good luck with him! Laura

  26. Matt says

    Laura – Thanks for responding so quickly! I understand your point regrading a parents point of view. In our case I feel we are being honest with ourselves. We went into this screening thinking we had a boy that needed speech therapy to catch up. At the inital screening when they threw out Autism we were totally shocked (hadn’t ever crossed our minds). Also, his pediatrician since birth does not think that is the case either.

    We are seeking speech therapy, that was the reason for us going through this screeing process to see if he qualifies. They gave us the C.A.R.S test which we took ourselves and with them. Either way, based on that test’s parameters he is not even “mildy Autistic”, the only areas he scored 2-2.5s in were the speech and communication areas. With a total score of 32 being “mildly Autistic” he was nowwhere near that…more in the low to mid 20’s (15 being the lowest score possible)

    What are your views on the “over diagnosis” of Autism these days? Agree? Disgree?

  27. Laura says

    Matt – Glad you’re getting the eval done so you can see what is going on with him. With such a low score on the CARS, it’s unlikely that autism is the culprit!

    In my area I do not believe that autism is overdiagnosed at all in toddlers and young preschoolers. However, it may be overdiagnosed in school-age children here based on reports I get from moms with children I treated as toddlers who in my mind were not on the spectrum when they were 1 and 2. My feeling is that if parents want a diagnosis so that their insurance will pay for speech therapy, they can almost always talk someone into saying he/she is autistic. Is it the right thing to do? NO, but if it means a kid gets services when he otherwise wouldn’t, then I’m not going to fault them for trying.

    Thanks for your questions!
    Laura

  28. Nicole says

    My son is 3 1/2 and his occupational therapist say he has Sensory Integration Disorder.Another occupational therapist recently told me he echo’s. They said he does it because his sensory system gets over loaded. I had no idea what she was talking about so I looked it up online, which is how I came across this site. My question is how do I help my son? He cannot relay any information to me or answer any of my questions, he just repeats what I said back to me. He has trouble communicating, making friends and get his needs met if I’m not around to intervene.

  29. Laura says

    Nicole – Treating echolalia can be really difficult. I hope that he’s getting speech therapy too. If not, I’d highly recommend that you have his language skills evaluated by a speech-language pathologist. Although it sounds like he’s “talking,” he’s not really “communicating” with you. Follow the ideas listed here in the article on echolalia and take a look at the other articles here in the expressive language section. You may also find the articles in the autism section helpful as well. Echolalia is often present in children who are on the spectrum. Of course I can’t see your son, so I can’t make that assumption, but you may want to discuss this with your OT to see if further evaluation is warranted so that you can get your son all of the help he needs to learn to make friends and communicate with others, ESPECIALLY when you’re not around. Let me know if you need other help, and thanks for your questions. Laura

  30. moonz says

    dear Laura,

    I had already written to you about my daughter, who is now 4 yrs old she has speech difficulty. Upon the advice of a pedeatrition we enrolled her to a normal school,since we dont have any therapist where we live. since her going to school she has improved in her speech ,from monosyllable to bisyllable and two words sentence or some times three.but the problem we have encountered is that she is unable to write till now.her writing ability are writing an ‘o’and ‘H’that too not perfectly.I have tried to teach her slanting line and bumps that are necessary for alphabet writing,but all in vain,because she prefers to write only the circle and capital ‘H’.
    Now her lower kinder garden will be comming to an end and the teachers will not promote her.I have been patiently practicing with her different strokes,but all in vain as she dosen’t write different strokes.can u give me advise on this.

    moonz

  31. Laura says

    Moonz – Many children aren’t ready for handwriting at 4 because they don’t have the foundational or prerequisite fine motor skills. Can she manipulate lots of different small toys during play? Does she place small-knobbed puzzle pieces into the appropriate spots in a puzzle? Can she snip paper with scissors? Can she use lots of different “tools” with Playdoh – cut it with a plastic knife, use a smaller roller, etc…? Can she use a set of plastic tweezers to pick up small objects? Does she use a mature grasp on the pencil with her fingers and thumb rather than a fist?

    Have her teachers give you other ideas about how to work with her at home with handwriting. There’s also a workbook set you can order called “Handwriting Without Tears” that may be helpful to you. Google it for more info.

    Since you don’t have a speech pathologist, you likely don’t have an occupational therapist either, huh? That’s the professional who would help with handwriting. Ask your physician about this referral as well.

    Hope these ideas help! Laura

  32. moonz says

    Dear Laura

    Thank u for the comment.I have given her a puzzle set of 6-8 pieces,and after showing her how to fit she could do with out help.she is now perfect in that.Now she fits with memory,where each puzzle goes.

    Rest she plays with tea ,cooking sets,csn use a knife to cut,roll dough,build blocks in different shapes.

    Only recently, 2 months ago she has learned to ride a tricycle.
    It seems to me she has learned out of frustration,as there were three more kids and one tricycle,this happened during our vacation in our home land.
    Her grasp of the pencil is with fingers and thumb but she does it with less confidence.

    At school, the teachers held her hand for her to write the letters.She wants the same at home,it has become a habbit for her,I wish for her to write on her own now as her motor skills are developing.

    I have observed that she writes when I give her in dotted form of letters,but after practicing with her for 2-3 days she can’t write I think I have to be patient till her motor skills develop.

    moonz

  33. Laura says

    Moonz – It sounds like you’re on the right track with the kinds of activities you’re doing with her. I would give her the hand-over-hand assistance to get her started, but quickly fade your help so that she can do it on her own. Again check out the handwriting programs I mentioned. Good luck! Laura

  34. Jezzy says

    I’m so glad I found your site! My daughter is 33 months old. For awhile, we thought she might be “advanced” because she knows all of her letters, can count to 30 (sometimes 40), and loves to memorize books. It wasn’t until recently that we realized that all that memorization could be a “red flag”. She also memorizes entire episodes of “The Wonder Pets” and we hear her reciting them alone in her room. She can answer questions, but it’s hit-and-miss, and often followed by a non-sequitur. For example, this morning I was getting her some blueberries. She saw what I was doing and said “No! Grapes!”. I said, “OK, grapes”, to which she replied, “Look, Wonder Pets, there’s the baby kangaroo”. Uh…OK. My husband and I agreed to make an appointment with her pediatrician, but what can we do in the meantime in addition to modeling our own words? Do we have to cut out “The Wonder Pets” altogether?

  35. Laura says

    Jezzy – Thanks for your question. If you cut out Wonder Pets, do you think she’d move on to memorizing and reciting another favorite show? That’s what usually happens. I’d probably limit her TV watching right now and do everything you can to keep her engaged and interacting with you for the majority of the day. The more she “practices” her social (real) language with you, the more the echolalia should decrease. I’d really try to keep her engaged with you with choices to follow-up with your question. For example, with the grapes you could have asked, “In the red bowl or blue bowl?” “Want juice or milk?”,”Eat them here or in the dining room?” With kids who are echolalic I try to avoid asking the questions with “Do you want ____” since they often imitate that whole question as their way of requesting, so try to model your question in a way that won’t sound odd if she imitates what you’ve said.

    I think a speech-language evaluation with someone who specializes in treating preschoolers with autism is a good idea. A specialized preschool for her for the fall is also something else I’d recommend. Many local public school systems offer preschool for children with social communication/language delays. I hope your pediatrician agrees and can point you in the right direction. Your daughter has lots of strengths, so you’ll want to have her in therapy to give her the jump start she needs and hopefully maximize her skills so that she’s as ready as she can be for kindergarten. Thanks again for your questions. Laura

  36. Sol says

    Hi Laura,
    My son just turned 4 and he has both immediate and delayed echolalia. However, he can verbalize what he is doing and can speak in a few words(usually 1 or 2 sometimes more)to meet his needs. He has excellent rote memory. I have access to some books in helping children to talk. One book is meant for typical chiildren that are delayed and the other is for autistic children. He has not yet been diagnozed of ASD. Will it hurt than help to use strategies that are mentioned in the autistic book before a diagnosis. Thanks.

  37. Laura says

    Sol – Nothing you can do to help him learn to learn will ever hurt him. Implement any idea that makes sense to you while you’re waiting on his formal evaluation.

    Echolalia, while worrisome in that a child is not learning language in a typical way, is still a great indicator that a child can and will learn to talk, and eventually on his own.

    Congratulations for searching for ideas to help him. You’re doing a good job :) Laura

  38. Sol says

    Thanks Laura for your quick and valued response. I would like to provide a little more detailed information about by 4 year old boy.

    The following autistic symptoms he has.
    – He does not have one to one conversation; can say yes or no appropriately and able to verbalize what he is doing and what the others are doing, but does not ask questions other than ‘what is this’ or ‘show me this’ while pointing at a book. However, overall he is very verbal with appropriate comments about his environment; he rarely makes a comment that does not make sense.
    – He has both immediate and delayed echolalia but I would say moderately. This is more when he is around known people and less in the presence of strangers
    – When his name is called while being close to him he does not respond most of the time, but always responds when I call his name from the next room; this puzzles me.
    – When I vacuum the carpet sometimes the sound irritates him and he cries; at other times he would enjoy and want to see what I am doing, and he would even take his toy vacuum and pretend to clean. He also does not like the sound that cows make ‘moo’.

    The following autistic symptoms he does not have
    – He has language enough to meet all his needs/ requests even though sometimes they are one or two words. There are times when he uses more words
    – He has good pretend play; pretend to make and drink tea and give others, pretend to drive a car or ride horse. Also he imitates the movement of animals like kangaroo, wombat. He imitates tv characters; would this be considered pretense or repetition. Is it positive or negative?
    – He points to things especially in books and identifies what they are; He knew all the alphabets and numbers upto twenty before his 3rd birthday both visually and phonetically. He has excellent memory; will be able to identify and remember things, animals etc.. from books even if he sees it just once.
    – He would bring books and toys to you frequently and ask to read or play with him
    – He makes good eye contact. When he plays with a toy he would make eye contact with you between play and sometimes look at you and make a comment with respect to his play
    – Likes to be held and cuddled
    – Has no problem in change of schedules or wearing any texture of clothing
    – When the parents come after work he would always rush to greet you and say ‘Hi mama/papa’
    – No stereotyped behaviors; does not have abnormal movements of hands or body; does not lineup anything
    – No temper tantrums
    – A contented child

    In addition his walking happened quite late at 19 months. Is there a connection between echolalia and good memory?
    I will be very grateful if you could please dissect the above for me. He has not received any diaganosis as yet. I know that if you do not meet the whole criteria it could be diagnozed as PDD(NOS). How much worried should I be and if and how my is he different from a typical child that has developmental/ language delays.

    Thanks very much again and I am very glad I was able to find your website and appreciate profusely the service you provide.
    Sol

  39. Sol says

    Hi Laura,

    My apologies for the lengthy note sent previously on April 9,2010. Based on what I have mentioned in that note, would you please let me know which of your resources(DVDs, books)would be most suitable to help my son who is 4yrs. 2mths.

    Thankyou
    Sol

  40. Laura says

    Sol – I just re-read your comment. Sorry I missed it before. Thanks for sharing your details about your little boy. Even though your son’s language is delayed, he has some nice strengths to build on. I hope that you’ll have him formally evaluated so that an SLP can SEE him and how he responds and uses language so that he/she can diagnosis him and more importantly, teach you how you can work with him to help him at home.

    My DVDs are for adults to watch to teach you how to work with your child at home. If he’s never been in speech therapy before and you’ve not already had professional recommendations with how to work with him, I’d recommend Teach Me To Listen and Obey 2 (if he’s not understanding a variety of words) and then the last couple of strategies from Teach Me To Talk for ways to work with him to target more advanced expressive language. Watch the clips and decide for yourself if these will be appropriate for you to help him.

    Thanks for your questions! Laura

  41. J/A's mommy says

    Hi…I have a 32 mo. old son. I recently started to worry w/ the fact that he doesn’t answer yes/no questions. When asked a question he will repeat the last word/s.
    Mom- do you want something to eat?
    J- eat
    Mom- what would you like?
    J- like
    Mom- do you want a sandwich or some soup?
    J- sandwich or soup
    I can’t get him to answer. He is able to say many words (over 200) but usually does not string more than 2 or 3 together. He also recites partial quotes from some of his favorite cartoons. he will do so spontaniously or while watching them…mostly finishing sentences for cartoon characters,so on. He is a very hyper and active boy. I was initally worried his speech delay was related to autism. looking over the list on this site he does show 3 or 4 signs (quoting, repeating vs. answering, hyperactive, occasionally flaps his hands if he is really excited about something- that has decreased.) He is very sociable w/ kids and adults, is very affectionate, he seems to be on target as far as everything else is concerned. He is able to follow direction, likes to engage us in his play, he is able to make needs known with simple 1-2 words. His preschool teachers say he is smart, loves flashcards and loves story time. They do agree he is a little delayed in speech but they believe he understands what is being said to him. He enjoys new things,places, people, foods,etc. Should i seek a referral to speech therapist or possible evaluation for autism? Thanks!

  42. Katie says

    Hi! I’m very glad I found this site. My son is 33 months old. HE was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (by a developmental pediatrician) in November 2009. Therapists who specialize in autism started coming to our house and with therapy I have seen improvement. The problem is, Some therapists don’t think he has autism and they don’t mind coming out and saying it. That makes it hard for me because I don’t know who to believe. I noticed signs of possible autism very early on. My son never explored my face when I would feed him his bottle as an infant. He NEVER answered to his name and when he started therapy they documented that he answered his name ONLY 10% of the time and now 5 months later it’s 60% of the time. His eye contact is inconsistent and he seems to have (all therapists agree) echolalia and delayed echolalia. If you ask him, “shane”, what’s your name? He will say “what’s name?” If you ask how old are you he’ll say “old are you.” HE can memorize and sing long country songs and will recite phrases from movies or tv randomly throughout the day. His expressive and receptive language are both at about 1 year and 9 months old (he’s almost 3). He does flap on occasion but it has gotten better now that we have been using PECS Pictures. He used to only play with anything with wheels or his roller coaster beads. Now with therapy he will play with other things but prefers to play alone. He has always lined things up (blocks, cars, stuffed animals). He loves to rock and he likes deep pressure on his head, hands and legs. He is about to start school and ‘m afraid some of the opinions of him not having autism of some of the staff will effect him or his right to therapies. They already refused to give him Occupational Therapy even though his adaptive skills are at 9 months to a year old with eating, feeding himself and dressing. What can I do and In your personal opinion do you think that the developmental pediatrician was correct about him having Autism spectrum disorder? THANK YOU!!

  43. Laura says

    Katie – I’d go with the autism dx because it usually does ensure that he’ll get more therapy time than any other dx. Ask your therapists to remove any mention of this in their notes so that they don’t jeopardize his chances of more services when he turns 3. Explain that you are THRILLED with his progress and understand from all of your research that he still continues to exhibit red flag characteristics of ASD and that you’d rather continue to assume that he does meet this criteria so you can ensure he gets proper tx. No therapist in their right mind will disagree with that!

    I like this question so much that Kate and I are going to discuss it on our show this Thursday. You can tune in for our answers, or better yet, call in yourself! We love to hear from moms!!! Laura

  44. Laura says

    JA’s mommy – Even though his vocabulary is increasing and he is using phrases, it does sound like he has some difficulty understanding and processing language since children with typically developing language can answer the kinds of questions you’re describing by 2 1/2 or 30 months. You can get him assessed by your local early intervention program, but chances are, he won’t qualify since he won’t meet eligibility requirements since he’s not significantly delayed. However, you can and should continue to work with him at home to help him learn to understand and answer questions. There are tips in articles here on the website in the receptive language category. Search the word “Answering Questions” and it should link you to a couple of articles. I will be addressing this in a couple of weeks on the podcast since I routinely get questions about questions!!! Tune in for those answers! Laura

  45. Deji says

    Hi Laura, am currently working with echolalia child of about 7 years, here in Nigeria. but the parent major concern is the academic aspect, thou she is trying her best, let say she is below average. she is also good with art and computer games. so what are you suggesting i should do. i seriouly need your suggestion. thanks inanticipation.

  46. Angie says

    Hi Laura,

    My son is 3.5 yrs old and uses echololia 50% and spontaneous speech the other 50%. He does express his needs such as “Mommy can I have milk?” or “Mommy Can I go outside” and answers questions like “What letter does the word Apple start with?” He will respond “the letter A” but cannot give me an answer if I ask him a question like “How was your day?” He is very engaged and affectionate with his family and has always made good eye contact so I don’t think it is autism but I’m not sure. He has been going to Speech therapy once a week for approx 3-4 months but I’m not seeing much of a diff. Can you offer me any advise and your thoughts on my sons language issues.

  47. Will's Mom says

    I have a son that shows a lot of Autism traits including Echolalia.
    In addition to that he has:
    1. limited eye contact
    2. lack of pretend play
    3. Speech Delay – probably speech of a 1.5 year old (he’s 3)
    4. some gross motor delay (can’t jump)
    5. limited interest in his peers.
    Interestingly though he loves adults, initiates play with us, can ask for what he wants such I want a cookie please, adjusts to routine and transition easily, and loves affection.
    We believe him to have autism, and are currently getting him evaluated. Looking for the best thing to help him also in your experience do is Echolalia often covered as a reason for speech by insurance?

  48. Laura says

    Will’s Mom – I am going to answer your question on today’s podcast at 6 pm eastern time. Listen in show #90 above!
    Thanks! Laura

  49. Laura says

    There were some difficulties with the podcast #90 yesterday, so the show was not posted. I’ll be answering those same questions again next week. Tune in Sunday, 11/7 at 6 pm eastern time! Laura

  50. Nyah's mom says

    Hi Laura,
    I really hope you answer my question. My daughter is 27 m/o and she shows signs of both immediate and delayed echolalia. For example:
    Mom: Are you tired?
    Nyah:Tired
    Mom: What’s your name?
    Nyah:Name
    She does however answer when I give her a choice of what to eat and when she’s asked academic question. She also does well when she’s asked what is a character in a book or on tv doing. She follows directions well and she knows what stuff in the house are for.
    She was counting to ten by the time she was 14 m/o and she knew all her colors way before she turned 2 y/o. Now at 27 m/o she knows all the letters in the alphabet, she even knows the accompanying phonetic sounds! Besides the echolalia, I’m concerned that she has a fascination with shapes and numbers. She can turn something like a rubber-band into any kind of shape and be right about it every single time. Sometimes, she’s even better at recognizing a shape than I am. It’s like she thinks in shape. For example, one day I held her palm open and I asked her what is it and her answer was a rectangle! Though I know she knew her body parts before she turned 2, I was still taken aback by her answer. She even recognizes octagons and pentagons. Because of that, her teachers and even the pedi think she should be tested for giftedness. While me, in my heart I feel like she is somewhere on the spectrum. I have a 14 y/o brother who is very low-functioning and non-verbal. My dad is also on the spectrum, but he has asperger and is very, very smart. We also speak 3 languages in the house. Do you think I should be concerned that she might be on the spectrum? Also what can I do to curb/reduce her echolalia
    Kindest regards,
    Nyah’s mom

  51. Laura says

    Nyah’s mom – With your family history, and the list of her strengths as well as her weakness, including the echolalia, I’d be concerned about her as well. Being on the spectrum does not mean that she’s not smart since many people of the spectrum, as you noted with your father, have academic strengths. However, it DOES mean that you’re going to have to work to help her learn to consistently understand and process SOCIAL language – not just rote concepts. An SLP who works with children on the spectrum will be able to help you do this. I’d probably have her assessed soon just so that you can best know how to address her language processing to reduce the echolalia.

    Try the completion method to help her learn to understand questions and reduce the echolalia. To help her answer, “What’s your name?” help her learn the sentences, “My name is Nyah.” After practicing then give her the starter phrase, “My name is ….. (pause to wait for her to fill it in) Nyah.” This helps her response become more automatic, and learning this way appears to be a strength for her, so use it!

    The interest in shapes/colors/letters/patterns tells you that she’s a visual learner. This also means that you can use this to help her learn other things that will be more difficult for her.

    There’s another article here on the website about working with children with echolalia, so take a look at that for more ideas. Thanks again for your question. Let us know how she progresses. Laura

  52. Laura says

    Hi readers! Comments from the last 10 days have disappeared from the website, and no one seems to know why. If you’ve submitted a question and don’t see it here, please enter it again so that I can respond to you. There doesn’t seem to be a way to retrieve them once they’re gone. Sorry! Laura

  53. Nyah's mom says

    I want to thank you for your prompt answer. I will be calling the EI program in my state tomorrow to schedule an appointment for her. I will definitely keep you updated on her progress. Happy Holidays!
    Nyah’s mom

  54. Amanda says

    Hi, my son just turned 4 in November. When he was about 18 months he had some echolalia but his spontaneous speech outweighed the echolalia. The echolalia decreased significantly around 2 when he was putting together sentences. At about 2.5 he started repeating the ends of words like cars-ars-ars or truck-k-k. This went on for a couple of months after which his articulation improved immensely. Then around 3 he started again but started to repeat his last word or sentence in a softer voice. Once again it subsided but came back at about 3.5. So it appears to come and go about every 6 months. He has lots of spontaneous speech, does well in preschool, developmentally on track…so I just don’t get it?? I would say it is < 15% of his speech. Is this a form of stuttering, echolalia, palilalia? I have a hearing screening set up, and will be setting an appt with the SLP in a month. Is it possible he is just trying to say it better?

  55. Laura says

    Amanda – Thanks for your question. I’m so glad you’re seeing an SLP for him. The way you’re describing how he repeats words is really an atypical pattern, so it is much better if someone can meet with you and see him in person to help you sort all of this out. When children are dysfluent, they usually repeat the beginnings of words, not the endings. When children are echolalic they tend to repeat the last word/s the hear or have heard others say and not their own utterances. So what you’re reporting does sound more like palilalia which as I’m sure you know, is the repetition of your own spoken words.

    The only child I’ve ever personally treated that exhibited the same kinds of repetitions you’re describing was later diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and also exhibited a host of other developmental issues, so this doesn’t seem to be an issue for your little boy since he’s meeting his milestones. Palilalia is also seen in children who are on the autism spectrum or who have neurological disorders.

    However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that any of these is what’s going on with your little guy, so again, I’m glad you’re going to see someone about this while he’s still pretty young.

    Good luck to you both! Laura

  56. sinead says

    hi laura its sinead from northern ireland ,, i wrote to you a few weeks back concerning my 26th mth son, he has a lot of jargon but its becomming more understandable and his vol is dif increasing,, i just hope in a few mths hes talking well, i had him at the speech therapist but she has ref him to a pead ,, i have no other concerns hes a great we boy with normal 2 yr old behaviours ,, shows great emotions and effection ,any thing else i can do with him? , he loves playing outside so hopefully when the weather picks up he can get out more,, thanks sinead

  57. Laura says

    Sinead – I’m so glad you’ve seen the SLP. Why did she refer him to the pediatrician? Does she believe he has a medical issue, or is she referring to a developmental issue that requires more specific diagnosis?

    Even inside you can use high energy play routines to help engage him more. Check out my DVD “Teach Me to Talk” so taht you can SEE specific ideas and examples.

    Thanks for updating us! Laura

  58. KarenMarie says

    Hi Laura,
    I am so happy that I have found your articles on echolalia. Our son is 3 1/2 and began his echolalia about a year ago. He was diagnosed with autism at age 3. Similiar to some of these other stories, he is very verbal but echolalic. He will use two/three word phrases, or even Please May I Have Milk but recites a lot. He uses it for boredom, comfort and many times because he wants to communicate with us or other but doesn’t know how. Lately though, he has been saying to his older sister (with Down Syndrome) Come on Grace! Come on wanna…and might end the sentence with “wanna go on bed, etc” but for the majority of the day there is echolalia. The ABA therpapists and speech therapist that did his evaluation don’t really seem to know how to address it. We have waited to put him any preschool until we get a consistent ABA program and potty train him. However, his echolalia is a big stumbling block and a distraction in social settings like trying to participate in Sunday School.
    He loves DVDs and the computer but doesn’t have the imaginiation for toys. He has been reading since he was 14 months. His receptive language is delayed but he does pretty well with expressive language. Which DVD would be best for our situation from your website? Are there any other DVD’s specifically for the children?

  59. Laura says

    Hi Karen Marie. Hopefully your team will come up with strategies that work for him as they proceed with his therapy. The main thing for you to remember is to model sentences the way he should say them.

    At home you should really focus on his receptive language and auditory processing. The DVD to give you the most help with this would be Teach Me To Listen and Obey 2 with ideas for language learning games.

    You also want to make sure you’re focusing on his social skills with you and in play with other kids so that he knows what to say and when. At home introduce social games for this like Ring Around the Rosies. My therapy manual Teach Me to Play WITH You may give you some other ideas for this as well.

    The other thing I’d highly recommend would be to limit his DVD/computer time. When that’s not an option, children do look for other things to do. To build play skills start with toys that seem really simple and then work your way forward.

    Hope these ideas help! Laura

  60. Janet says

    Hi Laura,

    My son is 4 yrs. and 3 months. Most of his vocabulary is repetition. He appears to have both immediate and delayed echolalia. If I ask him questions, he usually answers back w/the question. He also memorizes entire books and movies. If I ask him a yes or no question, I sometimes get an answer, but it takes a lot of effort.

    He sometimes says short phrases to get what he wants. For example, if he drops a Lego, he might say “the red Lego” and point and start to get upset. He often gestures and makes sad sounds to show me what he wants.

    This is something that I thought he would outgrow. He is an only child, and I didn’t really realize where he should be by now except that my friends children are younger than him and can now have conversations whereas my son does not.

    I made my son an appointment w/a regional center for special needs children, but they cannot see me for a few weeks, so I began researching on my own and discovered the term “echolalia” and found this site. Now, I’m more concerned. To me, he doesn’t have other signs of autism, but I don’t know for sure. What else could it be? He hasn’t really been around other children most of his life until now, and my husband used to repeat everything he said to show that he was listening. Could that have caused this?

    Another thing my son does is that he wants us to repeat everything he says back to him. For example, if he is saying a line from a movie or book, he will keep repeating it until we say it back to him. That’s what most of our “conversations” with him consists of. We try not saying it back to him, but he’ll keep incessantly repeating it, and we usually give in. Should we repeat it back, and if not, what are more creative ways to interact when he wants us to repeat his lines back?

    Thank you for your help.
    Janet

  61. Laura says

    Janet – Thanks for your interesting question. I’m glad he’s being evaluated, even if it will take a while.

    I have seen children who get upset if their utterances aren’t repeated, and it’s a hard habit to break. You must, must, must adapt a more natural conversational pattern with him! Fight through it, even if it’s hard for a while. Try to play with characters and emphasize that they don’t repeat each other, IF his receptive language is good enough to understand that concept. Puppets are another thing I would try with short, more natural conversations.

    BUT repeating him isn’t likely what’s single-handedly caused his language issues – although it certainly hasn’t helped! He probably would have exhibited the delay/disorder regardless, but you’ve reinforced this behavior for at least a couple of years now, so he’s not going to get over it in a day or two, or a week or 2, or perhaps even longer. Children with typically developing language are carrying on conversations by 2 1/2 and certainly by 3, so he is behind. Since I can’t see him, of course I can’t say if his echolalia is associated with autism or not. Regardless, he’s exhibiting difficulty understanding the social aspects of language, and he likely doesn’t fully process what’s said to him as a typically developing 4 year old does, or this wouldn’t have happened. A professional who can see him will be in a better position to make more specific recommendations for you. Again – thanks for your questions. Laura

  62. Louise says

    Hi
    My son is 39 months and has articulation difficulties, we can understand single words but it turns into jargon when he strings them all together. He has echolalia, delayed and immediate but will bring a book and say “read it” will ask for “bed”,”milk” etc simple requests, can say “I did it” in context and can tell us to stop if he doesnt like something!However he has never asked a question or answered a question except to say no to an option he is given.
    He enjoys playing with his brother but only plays alongside rather than with other kids at preschool. He has good eye contact and is very affectionate which is why I ruled out autism initially but now I’m not so sure. He loves books and cars but because its jargon can’t tell if its delayed echolaila or not. He also has terrible temper tantrums which I have always put down to frustration over not being able to communicate, hes doesnt seem to have sensory problems, routines or fixations although does suck his thumb and twirls his hair.
    The speech therapist has referred us to a paediatrician but if he didnt have speech delay or echolaila I would never have thought he was autistic. Any advice you can give before our appointment would be much appreciated.
    Louise from UK

  63. Laura says

    Hi Louise! I can’t tell if he’s on the spectrum because I can’t see him, but more often than not, echolalia is a marker for autism, and I would be concerned about him just based on what you’ve said. However, it doesn’t matter whether or not you get a specific diagnosis, because you need to keep addressing his language difficulties all the same. The excessive jargon nearly always points to receptive language problems – he’s not consistently understanding or processing exactly what words mean, or else he’d be using them more functionally. Keep working to build that single word vocabulary. When he’s using 50+ words consistently, he will begin to use more novel phrases. As his single word vocabulary improves, he’ll add more words to string together longer phrases. The key for him is making sure he understands and makes specific connections for words. He already “gets” that he needs to talk – now he just needs the specific words to fill in those gaps. Make sense? I hope so!! Laura

  64. ali says

    My son is 4yrs and 6 months and he has been recieving speech therapy for 2 months and his therapist brought up echolalia today. I immediately started researching and now I’m worried. I also noticed that he has trouble paying attention and he is also very hyper. I have suggested that he may have ADHD but now with the echolalia I am confused and worried that he may have autism. He does line up cars and other objects but since he was 3 1/2, at first he used to get upset but now not as much. He day-dreams quite often. He is friendly now, but wasn’t before. He sleeps with a stuffed dolphin and even takes him with himself to places sometimes. But he won’t get upset if he can’t find it. When I ask him “what is your name” he’ll answer with “what is your name,” followed by his name. He does mention several movie lines when it pertains to the situation, and others right out of the blue. Can he have both ADHD and Echolalia and autism? I’d appreciate your feedback. -ALI

  65. Louise says

    Hi Laura
    Thank you for your quick response, I’m not sure if I used the correct terminology! When I say jargon I mean I just can’t understand what he is saying when he is talking but the words I can pick out do seem to be in context, for example when hes in the bath I catch “bath” “bubble” etc but I guess his problem is pronounciation for example he can’t seem to grasp dinner but says ninner instead, yet he can say “din” and “er” separately. So his speech becomes non understandable when he puts it all together. I also think he understands every thing I say as he always follows instructions and if for example I say lets go to the park he will get his bike. I simply am so confused as I cannot find any speech condition which fits him, don’t think it is apraxia as he has not got motor issues but in addition to his speech problems he does have echolaila which I guess points to autism on top of his speech disorder. Hope this all makes sense, but I was wondering if you can have apraxia without fine motor problems ?
    Thanks again
    Louise

  66. Louise says

    Hi Laura
    Hope you don’t mind me asking another quick question to add to my previous post. Having thinking about it a bit more I suppose I’m asking can the autism cause the unintelligable language, from what I have read I understand autisitc kids usually have no pronunciation problems when they do speak which is why I’m so confused. He is very vocal and you can see he really wants to talk which I guess is a positive. Mini success last night he said “I got it” when he took the milk out of the fridge so he can now differentiate between that and “I did it” which he shouts after completing a task, not sure if thats echolaila or not but it made me happy!!!
    Louise

  67. Laura says

    Hi Louise – Many children with autism use tons of jargon until they’re consistently associating meaning with their novel utterances. Many times early on in autism the only words that are intelligible are those echolalic utterances, and everything else is jargon. Kids on the spectrum can also have a specific speech diagnosis including apraxia (or motor planning problems) or phonological processing errors which also affects speech intelligibility since the child makes errors with many sound classes. These distinctions can be terribly difficulty for a parent to sort out which is why I hope that you can work with a speech-language pathologist. Even then it’s sometimes difficult to get a precise diagnosis for a very young child which leads back to my original point. It really doesn’t matter what the diagnosis is, as long as he’s getting intervention to address his receptive and expressive language needs and begins to make progress understanding language and then increasing his vocabulary so that his SLP has some speech patterns to analyze! At this age, language is still the most important aspect of his treatment plan. I hope that makes sense to you! Thanks for your questions! Laura

  68. Laura says

    Ali – Yes, a child can have multiple speech-language issues as a part of his overall communication disorder. Echolalia is often a characteristic of children with autism since it describes the pattern of being able to repeat verbatim what you’ve heard, but not necessarily understand what it means.
    To receive a diagnosis of autism, a child must also have difficulties in his/her ability to connect socially with others and demonstrate some repetitive or stereotypical behaviors in addition to the communication delays. Take a look at the other articles about autism here on the website for more information.

    ADHD can accompany ANY speech-language or other developmental issue since it refers to a child’s level of attention and regulation or activity level. However, ADHD reallly shouldn’t be diagnosed until a child is closer to school-age. Before then we should look toward sensory processing issues. An occupational therapist who specializes in sensory processing can help you sort out all of those diagnostic differences.

    Laura

  69. Louise says

    Thank you Laura, I now understand what jargon is and it makes more sense. We are seeing a speech therapist although she does not think he is ready for formal speech therapy but he is making great progress with PECS and makaton. thanks for a great website.

  70. Janet says

    Thanks for the tips. I’m trying puppets with my son now. Sometimes he is more into it than others.

    My son finally had has his evaluation at the Regional Center w/the child psychologist today. He will score the tests and give his official diagnosis at our next meeting, but he wanted me to know his preliminary diagnosis. He thinks my son has autism, mild to moderate, so in my case, it appears echolalia is linked w/autism.

  71. Srini says

    Hi Laura,

    I have a 32-month son who is attending play school. The caretaker at the school called us last week to discuss some important issues regarding my son’s behavior. The following were her observations:
    * Gets distracted easily. Attention span less than 2 minutes
    * Always on the run. Never at his seat
    * Keeps repeating words or sentences
    * Does not make eye contact
    * Does not listen to the care taker. Likes to do his own thing
    * Does not interact with other kids
    * Likes watching cartoons and rhymes. Can sit for any amount of time in front of the television
    * Screams without reason

    We’ve observed most of this behavior at home too, but we thought it’s a part of growing up. The caretaker has advised us seek professional help. Is something really wrong with my son, or is this just a phase that he’ll grow out of?

  72. Laura says

    Srini – While it’s true that some children are more active than others, the things you’re describing aren’t part of typical development. I would get a professional assessment to rule out any specific diagnosis, such as autism, and more importantly, to pursue therapy services to help him reach the milestones he’s missing. An occupational therapy evaluation will help you understand why he’s always on the move and has decreased attention to talk. A speech language pathology evaluation will help you target his communication skills. Until then, you may want to check out my DVD Teach Me To Talk so you can work on language with him at home. Good luck to you all!! Laura

  73. Maite says

    Laura:
    Your article on echolalia practically describes my daughter’s trouble with speech! (she is 5 and has a rare genetic disease, PMLD, which affect myelin in her brain).

    I was wondering if you could recommend resources (articles, books, DVDs), yours or by others.

    If it’s better to do the Skype consultation for this, please just let me know.

  74. dearmommy says

    Hi Laura,

    That’s an excellent article! The delayed echolalia part seems as though you observed my son and wrote it!! He is 32 months old now and says “Put on your shoes” when he wants to go out; “don’t cry baby” when he cries; “dear did you fall, does it hurt” when he falls down; “do you want water/milk/cookie” etc etc… his communication is 100% delayed echolalia. I wrote on a paper all the sentences he is talking and it comes to around 60 different phrases and sentences!! This started when he was 21 months old at which time I thought his language is advanced because he was already using 3 word phrases.. that was the biggest mistake. He clearly shows few other signs of autism as well. He is currently started getting speech and occupational therapies through early intervention.

    Before 2 years he could tell ABC’s, 1 to 10, 6-7 nursery rhymes. I know this has nothing to do with his cognition as it is just rote memory. Could his echolalia indicate a cognitive disability too?? He has very good fine, gross motor skills and can match 12 piece shapes puzzle without guidance. But can name only circle, square and triangle. he is always confused with colors – cannot name them correctly.

    In your experience have you seen kids whose communication was 100% echolalic at around 3 years but later developed good conversational skills and does good(atleast average) in mainstream school?? I know every kid is different.. just trying to get some picture of my son’s school days..

    Thanks in advance for any input.

  75. Laura says

    Hi Samprity – Based on the examples you’ve provided, I would agree that this is echolalia, but since I can’t see him, of course I don’t know what may actually be going on. I’d see an SLP for help. He’s echoing because he’s probably not processing the question, and there are likely other things he doesn’t understand too which is why he’s not conversational, even though he clearly has enough vocabulary to be conversational.

    Some of the other behaviors you’ve mentioned are red flags for autism, but you won’t know until you have him evaluated. Hopefully you live in an area with access to speech language pathologists and developmental therapists. An occupational therapist may also be very helpful to you in suggesting ways to help him settle down and regulate. Ask your pediatrician for a referral. If you’re in the USA, try your local public school system as well. Good luck to you all! Laura

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