Increase Language with Echolalia for Children with Autism

Have you ever heard your child repeat a part of a phrase you just said? If so, they may have echolalic speech.

Echolalia is when children repeat the words said to them. This is a common trait in children with the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

For example, a child might want more cookies during snack time and say “its snack time” instead of naming the item desired (e.g. “cookie”). If your child is doing this, it’s important to know that this is their way of communicating with you. It’s also important to keep in mind that this is GREAT NEWS!

Part of language development involves the verbal imitation of the words used around them. Here are some tips to encourage continued language growth and help shape their communicative attempts to spontaneous speech:

1. Follow your child’s lead.

Your child is trying to communicate his/her wants and needs but is having difficulty using their language to express exactly what they want. Try to follow your child’s lead and observe what interests them in their natural environment. Do they reach for certain objects or pull you in a specific direction? Try observing them in their surroundings to see how they feel about certain activities or items. This can help give you clues on what they are trying to communicate to you.

2. Allow pause time in your interactions.

It is common to try to fill in the gaps for you child when they are trying to communicate to you. You are trying to give them what they want. However, for language growth and use of functional phrases, try to allow for pause time when interacting with them. If you see them reaching for the toy bear, you can use a functional phrase of “I want” and allow them time to verbalize “bear” or “toy” back to you.

3. Provide verbal models.

After deciphering what your child wants, it is important to provide a language model versus just handing them the desired object. Make sure that you provide a model based on what your child would say to you. For example, if your child verbally imitates “do you want chicken”. You would provide the verbal model of “I want chicken”. It is important to use the pronouns “I” and “me” even though it may seem unnatural.

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