Echolalia is a condition associated with autism. Children with echolalia repeat noises and phrases that they hear. They may not be able to communicate effectively because they struggle to express their own thoughts. For example, if asked a question, they might be able only to repeat the question rather than answer it. I found a great blog that discusses the two types of echolalia and what it may look and sound like in a child with this condition: What You Need To Know About Echolalia.
Important factors to consider if you think your child may have echolalia: When it comes to determining whether or not echolalia is normal, there are many factors to consider. Imitating and repeating language is a very important part of language development. As children are developing speech and language skills, we want them to imitate what we do and say, including our gestures, facial expressions, sounds, and words. However, as children become more independent using language, echolalia is expected to decrease. After a certain point in development, echolalia is considered atypical and may indicate weakness in language skills. When determining whether or not echolalia is typical, there are many important factors to consider:
- Think about your child’s age. Between 8-12 months, your child should be responding or repeating to your gestures and sounds. Between 1-3 years of age, your child should be repeating words they hear you say, intonation patterns, songs, gestures, and even phrases.
- Between 1-4 years of age, your child should also be expanding the language they can use independently. Between 1-2 years of age, your child’s use of different vocabulary words should be expanding, and between 2-3 years of age, your child should begin putting strings of 2-3 words together in phrases or sentences (e.g. mommy go, more juice, etc).
- Think about the frequency of echolalia. How often does your child repeat language? Do they ever use words or phrases independently? Can they answer some questions appropriately?
- Consider when echolalia is occurring. Does it primarily occur when you are giving your child directions? Or when you’re asking questions? Does your child repeat cartoons they hear?
If you suspect that your child may have echolalia, see a Certified Speech Language Pathologist for an evaluation; ongoing speech therapy may be recommended to help with your concern. Stay tuned for the next blog post in our series detailing how we treat echolalia and strategies you can use at home to help.