Echolalia is defined as ‘repetition of another person’s spoken word’.
This may be spoken word from a physical person, or from toys, TV programs, nursery rhymes, adverts, story books, safety announcements....
Children with social communication disorders such as Autism may use echolalia as part of their
verbal communication. They usually struggle to allocate meaning to these repeated words or
phrases or to use them within an appropriate context. They may choose certain phrases or bridging words to buy themselves time if they have misunderstood a question/ instruction or if they are struggling to process some verbal information. Examples of fantastic time buying phrases are, “let me think about it”, “let’s see”, or “I’m not sure”. They often don’t understand what they are
Some children with Autism or social communication disorders may also use Complex Echolalia. This
is where they are able to repeat phrases, words or whole pieces of information WITHIN the correct
context. This can be pretty hard to spot, as on the surface it seems that their verbal communication
is entirely appropriate. However the child cannot usually allocate meaning to these words or
phrases. A newcomer or unfamiliar person may not pick up on this at all, however those of you that
know the child well might start to notice some copied phrases/ terms/ words being used regularly -
just check your child or young person knows what they mean, and if not, try to explain.
If you notice a child is showing Echolalic speech it can often be a sign that they need:
• Additional processing time for verbal information
• Clear and explicit language
• Simplified body language, supported with clear gesture
• Reduced verbal information - ask closed questions, offer limited choices, give only essential
information, drop the bridging words
• Broken down instructions - one step at a time (get your shoes, put them on)
• Visuals to support instructions or to sequence instructions in the right order - this doesn’t have to
be pictures; written lists, post-it notes and flow charts all count as visuals if your young person can
• Support in managing their current level of anxiety - you may notice more echolalia with increased
stress levels or demand
• Reduction in additional demand - sensory demands from the environment, social demands from
those surrounding them, physical demands in terms of positioning and basic needs
Remember, some echolalia is part of normal language acquisition within ‘typical’ child development,
and there are NO ABSOLUTES with Autism - your child or young person may never use echolalia, or may go through phases of using it.
Written by Vicky Brewer - Autism Consultant, Education Advisor & Specialist teacher - Qualified Solution Focused Practitioner &
Vicky now works with over 70% of our Sennies families on a private basis and trains new and seasoned Sennies weekly. The feedback from Families and Sennies has been incredible and we are extremely happy to be working with Vicky!!
Everyone within the Sennies community can book sessions with Vicky at a discounted rate due to our partnership! Please see below
Ø SENNIES offer - Family bespoke Session = £35 per session, 1 hr
Ø Bespoke Family Support Package - email email@example.com for a quote
Please get in touch with Sennies to book in a free 15 minute family consultation with Vicky to find out more or for free advise on a single topic you would like to address.
Autism Training Packages for our Sennies - Led by Vicky through Zoom
Ø Short Course £35 per Sennie , 1.5hrs
Ø Full Autism Awareness, including practical strategies to Support children and young people on the Spectrum, £65 per Sennie, 3hrs
Ø Group training £25 per Sennie, 1.5 hours (max 6 Sennies per session)
If you are currently looking for SEN Childcare please contact Georgia directly on firstname.lastname@example.org as we have Super Sennies available to cover all of your SEN childcare needs.