Echolalia is a phenomenon in which an individual reproduces words or phrases that they have heard, often in the same way that they heard them (Gross & Dies, 2012). It is most commonly observed in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), although it can occur in other populations as well (Butler, 2016). Echolalia is often described as a way of “echoing” back what was heard or said (Gross & Dies, 2012). It can be used as a form of communication, but it can also be seen as an indication of difficulty with understanding language or processing spoken language (Butler, 2016).
The prevalence of echolalia in individuals with ASD is estimated to range between 50-95%, depending on the severity of the disorder (Butler, 2016). The age at which echolalia is most commonly seen is between 1-3 years old, although it can occur at any age (Gross & Dies, 2012). It is important to note that echolalia does not necessarily mean that a person with ASD has difficulty understanding language, as echolalia can be used as a form of communication (Butler, 2016).
Echolalia can be divided into two broad categories: immediate echolalia, which is the repetition of a phrase or word that was recently heard, and delayed echolalia, which is the repetition of a phrase or word that was heard at some point in the past (Gross & Dies, 2012). In addition, echolalia can also be classified as functional or nonfunctional, depending on the purpose of the repetition (Butler, 2016). Functional echolalia is used as a form of communication, while nonfunctional echolalia is not used for communication (Gross & Dies, 2012).
There are a number of strategies that can be used to address echolalia in individuals with ASD. For example, it is important to provide a supportive environment for the individual, as this can help to reduce anxiety, which can in turn reduce the occurrence of echolalia (Butler, 2016). It is also important to provide opportunities for the individual to practice new language skills in a supportive environment (Gross & Dies, 2012). Additionally, it can be helpful to use visual supports to help the individual understand language, as this can reduce the need to rely on echolalia (Butler, 2016).
In conclusion, echolalia is a phenomenon that is commonly seen in individuals with ASD, although it can occur in other populations as well. It is important to note that echolalia can be used as a form of communication, and that there are a number of strategies that can be used to address it.
Butler, A. C. (2016). Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Evidence-Based Guide for Practitioners. New York, NY: Springer.
Gross, D., & Dies, R. (2012). Echolalia: A Review of Literature. Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, 19(4), 149-157.