Monday 29 February 2016

I'm so happy my son has echolalia

Nearly 75% of verbal autistic people display some kind of echolalia. It is 'echoing' or repeating or words, sounds, sounds made by someone else. It's there because the child doesn't understand what's being said but thinks a response is appropriate.  It was one of the key 'symptoms' that led to our eldest son's Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis, so why on earth am I pleased our second son is now showing signs of echolalia?

With our eldest son, Anthony, it used to cause all sorts of difficulty. I'd ask him if he could like a banana, he'd say 'banana' and then he'd get really upset when I gave him the fruit. This is because he didn't actually understand what was being said to him. He may have figured I was going to get him something to eat as I was stood by a kitchen cupboard and he knew he was hungry. So, when he heard me say something he responded by echoing, usually, the last word I'd said, in this case 'banana'.

This proved particularly difficult if I was offering a choice, flapjack or biscuit?  Anthony may have wanted the flapjack, but if the last word I'd said was biscuit then that's the what he would say and he'd get upset when presented with one.   This type of echolalia is called 'immediate echolalia' where the words are immediately echoed.

Of course once Anthony had been diagnosed with ASD we understood. We started to use the same exercise but holding the objects out for him to chose from. Then this progressed to photos and even photos of places too. Do you want to go to the park or the playground? Anthony's speech has come along brilliantly with help from a Speech and Language Therapist at school, but he still gets lots of things wrong. So why am I glad our second son David is developing echolalia?

Let's start with something pretty basic.

David used to be non-verbal. That's right, apart from a few bird like noises, David didn't say anything that even remotely sounded like a letter sound, word or anything 'normal'.  If he's showing signs of echolalia, then high five, my son is beginning to make speech sounds, even if it's not understood.

And that's because of the next reason that I'm happy about it. Echolalia occurs in normal language development.  It usually decreases as the typically developing child gains understands what to say in response. In children with Autism, Echolalia occurs with greater frequency and lasts for a longer period of time as the child, but that's OK, we can work on this. So, well done David, you are understanding that responding verbally to a question is a good thing.

And here's why you do - David is beginning to understand that he can make sounds to get things.  He is learning that he doesn't need to use Makaton sign to get things, he can get a response just through his voice.  Makaton sign language has been a great gift in this, is it specifically developed to be used with a verbalisation, not instead of it.  This means it encourages children to talk while communicating.

Finally, one of the best reasons I'm glad he showing signs of echolalia is that he loves it. He is enjoying communicating with me and smiling when he gets what he wants.  We have simple delight in the smallest of tasks.  This morning I helped get him dressed, 'Clothes' I said as I lifted up his school clothes from the table.  David said 'Clo' and started to try and take his pyjamas off.  Honestly, I was delighted.


As listed with: 
Little Hearts, Big Love


  1. That's brilliant - sounds like he's really progressing! Echolalia is such a fascinating thing and, as you say, it does serve important purposes. Hope David continues to enjoy his new speech. #ftmob

  2. I love it - so pleased for you guys. I remember being so scared of echolalia when it first came in Oscar, but I've since read studies that show autistic child who use it go on to have much more expressive speech when they become fully verbal. So now I just look on it as another example of him learning outside the box! Great post! #SSAmazingAchievement

    1. Honestly I love him but it's nice to hear something that sounds less like bird sounds and more like us. It's true they do learn differently, and also sometimes the same xx

  3. Sounds like great progress, hope it continues for you #SSAA

  4. I hadn't heard of the term echolalia before so it was interesting to read more about it and why it's encouraging with David starting to do it. I love that he is now saying "Clo" for "clothes" and responding and learning that he can use verbal sounds as well as signs to get what he wants. Thank you for sharing with #ftmob

  5. How lovely that David is beginning to express himself verbally - the end of this post, in particular, made me smile. #ftmob

  6. That's lovely. I'm glad he's making process and hopefully he'll continue to. It must be great to hear him say things after waiting so long.

  7. Well done to David! Tyger's very verbal but he does still display some echolalia as part of his ASD. Sometimes he fixates on a word someone says and repeats it over and over because he enjoys the sound. Like a sensory thing. Other times I think he repeats what someone's said to give him extra processing time to take in the question and form an answer.


  8. This is fantastic news, I'm so glad David is making the connection that speech is a good thing. Our son is 6 this year and we started to really get echolalia over the last summer holidays. We had been quite visual before that with things but last year he started to copy Peppa Pig. This is such a positive start, I'm sure he will be talking non-stop before long

    Thanks for linking up with Small Steps Amazing Achievements :0)

  9. This is so interesting. I'm not sure whether Hayden has this or not. He repeats nearly everything I say but it isn't necessarily the last word I say, it is sometimes the full sentence (no completely clear) or any particular work he picks out from what I have said. It has only been something that has started recently, so maybe? And such great news for you and David! Thank you for joining me on #spectrumsunday lovely. I'd really love you to join me again this week xx


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