Associated Echolalia in Autistic Children

Autism Spectrum Disorder affects the verbal communication skills that a child normally develops within two years of age. Personalised communication development is absent in children with autism. Often around the age of 8-10 or more, the children with autism spectrum disorder have started to communicate with a routine of repetitive words and sentences. This choice of sentences or words is normally associated with what the child has heard recently. It could also be statements from their favourite movies or stories. 

The majority of the time, when the words do not even match with the actions, the child keeps on speaking them, only that to the child, the statement is in relevance to their actions. At times it is also observed that a child may use the words or sentences that were spoken to him in a certain scenario. The child can associate the happening with the present scenario at hand but is unable to remember that he has to respond to that event as himself, not as the other person.

This absence of understanding of how to rephrase the sentences, and the repetition of certain sentences or words, irrespective of the situation at hand, is known as Echolalia. This condition comes as a natural communication strategy to the child, where he is unable to decipher that he needs to change the statement as himself. Some of the examples could be: if you ask the child “do you want water?” the child would answer as “you want water”. This is the child’s way to tell that he wants water, but then he might not want it and shake his head while saying that as well. A certain mood is shared in reluctance, which is the sign if the child has that certain need at that moment or not. This development delay can be treated with time.

Children with autism-associated echolalia are, to be simply understood, reluctant to initiate or make much communication with their words. We can do some little activities to promote verbal communication in them:

  • When you ask a question, answer right after that, without a gap, and then pause. Let the child adhere to what you said. The human memories trace backwards, so he may be rolling off your last words in his mind, which is the desired response you want to teach him. Repeating this until the child tries to complete the sentence for you.
  • However, you are making an autistic child use his words, associate with pictures. The visual assistance helps in the verbal fluency and spontaneity of the child.
  • For a child with autism-associated echolalia, the exclamation is better than silence. The hyperactivity of the child can be used here to make him exclaim the words of the picture shown.
  • Remember to use your words in a tricky way to stimulate the child to respond or put in the words. Show the story pictures, speak/read one, then show the other picture and pause. Let the child perceive and wait for your word/s. When you wouldn’t, they might try to probe you into speaking. Try lip-synch to give them a hint and encourage them to guess what you mean.

The given ideas are meant to give you a better insight into how to better deal with an autistic child. Small Steps Big Dreams is here to help your child with speech delays.

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