Why does my child with Autism repeat words or phrases?

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What is echolalia?

Echolalia is the repeating of words or phrases heard in the environment. It is commonly seen in children with Autism.

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Why do some children with Autism use echolalia?

Sometimes, a child with Autism has difficulty coming up with their own language, so will copy words or phrases heard around them.

These words could be from a person in the same room, or from the TV or radio.
Words can be repeated immediately after hearing them, or hours and even days afterwards.

  • Some children with Autism use repeated words or phrases appropriately or relatively appropriately to get their message across.
    e.g. they may say things such as “Do you want chocolate?” when they want chocolate, or “Are you hurt?” when they have hurt themselves, as this is what they have heard adults say to them during a previous experience.
     
  • Echolalia can also increase when the child hasn’t understood what was said or asked.
    e.g.  if the child is unable to answer your question of “What did you do today?”, they may respond themselves with “What did you do today?
     
  • Similarly, when given a choice, a child using echolalia may repeat the last given choice regardless of preference.
    e.g. if asked “Do you want a cookie or banana?” they may respond with “banana” even if they dislike them.
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What can I do at home if my child repeats / uses echolalia?

There are many things you can do at home to support your child who uses echolalia. One example is;

Try to use words and language as if you were your child. That way, if they repeat it next time, their phrase is appropriate and others will understand.

e.g. if your child falls and hurts themselves, you could say “I’m hurt”.
e.g. if your child is hungry and wanting food, you could say “I’m hungry”.

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What next?

Our team at Acorn Autism can support your child's continued language development. We are experienced in in many language difficulties related and unrelated to Autism, including echolalia. There are many activities we can do with your child to support their language learning and increase the use of their own words. 

Note: The above examples are not an exhaustive list of when and why a child with Autism may use echolalia. The above information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of personal consultation, as appropriate, with a qualified professional.

Please contact Acorn Autism for more information.