It is very common for children especially in the toddler years to repeat everything that is said to them. They learn vocabulary, language, the art of speaking through repeating what they hear.
Usually by age 3 the repeating of other people’s phrases and words goes away and they can respond appropriately with their own words and thoughts. By age 4-5 children can usually have full conversations, ask questions, and answer questions that they are asked. This is a normal development in language building.
Echolalia is when someone repeats precise wording or noises that they hear. Echolalia is common in children younger than age 3. If echolalia continues after age three it is usually a sign of concern.
Both adults and children can have echolalia.
In children if they have echolalia after age three it can be a sign of autism spectrum disorder such as Asperger’s syndrome, developmental disability, or communication disability.
Echolalia in adults can be caused by aphasia, head injury, neurodegenerative disorders, confusion, delirium, memory loss, encephalitis, learning disability, paralysis, schizophrenia, stroke, or epilepsy.
People who have echolalia may see that it worsens in moments of stress, anxiety, or distress.
Echolalia can also cause anxiety, irritability, and frustration.
Types Of Echolalia
There are different types of echolalia.
Immediate echolalia is when the words, phrases, or noises are repeated almost right away.
Delayed echolalia is when the words, phrases, or noises are repeated after hearing them, this could be just a few hours, or even days. These words when repeated are usually out of context and can be confusing to those hearing them.
Interactive echolalia is when a child is trying to communicate using memorized phrases. This could be repeating words they had heard previously from someone trying to fit them in to answer a question. Or repeating something from a movie that they have connected to an emotion when they themself are feeling that exact emotion. This can also be very confusing when trying to communicate to someone who has interactive echolalia. Figuring out where they are coming from is important in connecting the dots in their communication process.
Non-interactive echolalia is when words, or phrases are repeated without trying to communicate. This is more in the case when someone is trying to repeat words for themself, either practicing words or phrases, or using the repetition as a calming mechanism.
Unmitigated echolalia is when someone repeats a phrase exactly as someone else.
If the phrase is repeated with slight changes to it then it is mitigated echolalia.
A speech-language pathologist can diagnose someone with echolalia.
Autistic children are often screened for echolalia with speech lessons on a normal basis.
Speech lessons will allow the pathologist to figure out the type, stage, and severity of echolalia.
Treatment Options for Echolalia
Treatment for echolalia is usually a combination of different things. Professionals who can help with treatment of echolalia are speech-language pathologists, speech therapists, neurodevelopmental specialists, psychologists, or special educators.
Speech therapy is a common treatment option for echolalia. In speech therapy you can learn how to say what you are thinking. It can help establish the speech tools to be able to effectively communicate.
Medications such as antidepressants may also be prescribed. Antidepressants won’t stop the echolalia, but it can keep the person that is affected by it calm. It can also help lessen the other symptoms present with echolalia like anxiety, irritability, and frustration. Antidepressants can cause a calming effect which can in some cases lessen the echolalia, when anxiety and moments of stress worsen the echolalia.
You can also help with changing how you communicate at home. Limit your WH questions to your child. Questions about what, who, where, when are very common in daily speech. Instead of asking your child what they want to wear, select two options for them and let them decide that way. This can help lessen the amount of choices and make it easier for them to decide. As soon as they pick an option, end the conversation and act upon their choice immediately. Don’t question their choice, it can be very confusing and frustrating.
Another thing to try is to communicate visually. Point, use pictures, show options, shake your head yes or no.
Limit your phrases and questions, make the phrases as simple as possible. Instead of asking if your child is sleepy. Just say sleepy over and over until they respond to you. Keep it simple until their vocabulary and speech abilities improve.
Echolalia is very common in children who are autistic. There are ways of being able to improve their speech and lessen the echolalia. Don’t panic if you have an echolalia diagnosis other forms of communication can be sometimes supplemented for children to learn to communicate appropriately. Working with a speech therapist can also help if echolalia is too confusing.
After the age of 3 repetition of words and phrases can be a sign of autism in children or a brain disorder in adults! #HealthSurgeon