Echolalia is the repetition of sound, words, phrases. For example: repeating a phrase you’ve just heard, repeating a line from your favourite film, repeatedly pressing a button on a device which elicits a sound.

Communication Features | AutisticSLT

Echolalia is all about language development

Marge Blanc: Making Sense of Echolalia: It’s All About Language Development! – YouTube

From Ausome Speech: “Gestalt Language Processing is a form of language development that moves from whole, memorized phrases to single words. It’s estimated that between 75-90% of Autistic children develop language through NLA. (Prizant & Rydell, 1984; Blanc 2012). These scripts or Gestalts come from movies, videos, and things overheard and memorized. A style of language development with predictable stages that begins with production of multi-word “gestalt forms” and ends with production of novel utterances. (ASHA 2021)”.

Gestalt Language Processors learn language using longer phrases first then break them down into single words combining. Natural language development that starts with ‘gestalts’ (units of meaning of any size), breaks down smaller ‘mitigated gestalts’ (mitigations / chunks), breaks down again into single words, then builds into phrases, then sentences. The Natural Language Acquisition Pathway (Blanc 2012) has 4 main stages:

Stage 1 – Echolalia: Strings of language repeated from communication partners, songs, media. Can be short or long. 

Stage 2 – Mitigated: Strings of language that are mixed and matched. Freeing part of something and using it in different ways. 

Stage 3 – Isolation of single words: Language that is more in context. Gestalt are being broken down.

Stage 4+ – Self-generated language: Language that’s in context and looks like grammar (even if it’s not perfect grammar). Starts off simple then increases in complexity. 

Communication Features | AutisticSLT

Pragmatic functions of gestalts:

  • Requesting
  • Protesting / refusing
  • Yes/no
  • Commenting
  • Greeting
  • Social turn taking
  • Asking questions
  • Describing
  • Directing
  • Gaining attention
  • Answering questions
  • Labelling
  • Expressing feelings
  • Self-regulation
Communication Features | AutisticSLT

Gestalt language processors are the children whose language development style often goes undetected if they are neurotypical – and misunderstood if they are neurodiverse.

Gestalt processors begin their natural language development journeys with ‘gestalts,’ or ‘Language bundles’.

These bundles are their first ‘units of meaning’.

It takes them two more steps to get to self-generated sentences, so they are ‘delayed’ but not ‘disordered’

Marge Blanc: Making Sense of Echolalia: It’s All About Language Development! – YouTube

Further reading,