Echolalia is the repetition of certain words or phrases that someone else says, either immediately after pronouncing them or later. It is usually described as a parrot-like imitation. For example, when a child with echolalia is asked, "Do you want some juice?", They might respond, "Do you want some juice?" In a way, echolalia is considered a normal part of very young children's language acquisition. However, autistic children may turn to it more often, and autistic people may use it throughout their teenage and adult years.
Method 1 of 3: Teach You Scripts
Step 1. Know the purpose of the scripts
Autistic children may rely on scripts to make communication easier. Many autistic children repeat words and phrases (echolalia) as a way of saying "I heard what you said and am thinking about the answer."
Try to stay calm and be patient while interacting with the child. If you think that echolalia serves as a form of communication for the child and not just as a way to frustrate people, it may be helpful to see it from their perspective
Step 2. Teach him to say "I don't know."
For those questions to which the answer is unknown, it is necessary to encourage autistic children to say "I don't know." There is evidence to suggest that training a child to use the phrase "I don't know" to answer questions to which he or she does not know the answer helps him choose and use this new phrase appropriately.
- Try asking the child a series of questions that you know he doesn't know the answer to. For example, ask "Where are your friends?" and encourages the response by saying "I don't know." Then ask him "What is the capital of France?" followed by "I don't know." You can write down many questions in advance and practice the script each time.
- Another way to teach him to say "I don't know" is by asking someone else to answer the unfamiliar questions with that phrase.
Step 3. Encourage the child to give the correct answer
Children can use echolalia when they do not know how to respond or express their thoughts in the right words. Giving them a script will let them know what to say.
- For example, ask "What's your name?" and encourage him to say the correct answer (his name). Repeat this exercise until you have learned the correct script. Try it with all the questions that have the same answer. "What color is our house?" followed by "brown" and "What is our dog's name?" followed by "Max". It is important that you give him the answers each time to teach him the script until he begins to do it on his own.
- This method only works for questions that always have the same answer. For example, it would not work for the question "What color is your shirt?" because the color of said garment will change every day.
Step 4. Teach the child lots of scripts
In this way, you will be able to successfully communicate basic things, even when you feel overwhelmed.
This gradual process can provide the child with the tools to develop confidence, vocabulary, communication, and proper interaction
Step 5. Teach him scripts that focus on his needs
If an autistic child cannot communicate his needs, he could become frustrated or distressed and have a crisis. The scripts will help you say what you need, allowing you to fix the problem before it gets cornered to a critical point and starts screaming or crying. Scripts can include the following:
- I need quiet time.
- I am hungry.
- It is too noisy.
- Please stop.
Method 2 of 3: Use the Modeling Technique
Step 1. Use the exact words you want the child to use
The modeling should include the exact words and phrases that the child can understand, choose, and reproduce. This will help you learn to express the things you want to say.
- For example, you already know that the child does not like to play with a certain toy, but to teach him to express it verbally, you can offer it to him and let him use phrases or words such as "No, thank you" or "I don't want it."
- When the child uses the desired phrase, give him the expected result. For example, if he successfully says “I want more, please,” then give him more.
- If you repeat the phrase several times and the child does not respond, take the desired action. He will start to associate the phrase with the action and then try again later. Over time, the child will begin to use the phrase.
Step 2. Leave a blank space in your sentences and mark the answer
If you want to give the child a snack or if it is time for him to drink his milk, you could model by saying “I want to drink ____” (point to the milk and say “milk”) or “I would like ____” (point to the sandwich and say “sandwich”). Over time, the child will fill in the blank on his own.
Step 3. Say phrases to the child instead of questions
It is best to avoid questions like "Do you want this?" or "Do you want help?" because it will repeat them. Instead, say what to say.
For example, if you see that she wants to reach for something, instead of asking her "Do you want me to help you?" Try saying "Help me reach for my toy, please" or "Please pick me up so I can reach for my book." Encourage him to repeat the phrase, and then help him, regardless of whether he does it or not
Step 4. Avoid saying the child's name at the end of sentences
The child will start repeating it after you and it won't make sense. When you say "Hello!" or “Good night!” just say the word and don't say their name later. You can also say their name first and pause and then say what you want to say at the end.
When the child needs praise for doing a job well, instead of using his name, just use the word congratulations. For example, instead of saying "Good job Alex!" Just say "Good job!" Or show it to him through actions such as kisses, a pat on the back, or a hug
Step 5. Keep the teaching process fun and joyful
Pick a time when both of you are relaxed and willing to make a game or silly process of the process. This will help your child be eager to learn and give both of you an opportunity to bond and have fun.
Teaching should not be a painful process or involve a battle of wills. If one or both of you get too frustrated, stop and try again later
Method 3 of 3: Understand the Communication Purposes of Echolalia
Step 1. Learn about the purposes of echolalia in autism
Echolalia has many uses as a form of communication, and autistic children may use it in the following cases:
- If they do not know the meaning of individual words, or the purposes or uses of the questions. In these cases, children turn to phrases they have heard in order to communicate. For example, saying "Do you want a cookie?" instead of "Can you give me a cookie?" because in the past when an adult used the first question a cookie materialized.
- If they are stressed. Echolalia is easier than spontaneous speech, making it easier to use during times of stress. For example, an autistic person in a crowded room might have a hard time processing all the noise and movement around them, so forming complete sentences might be too much.
- If they feel the same way they did when an affirmation was used. Echolalia can communicate feelings. For example, the child might say "The pool is closed today" to express some kind of disappointment because there was a time when the pool was closed and he was disappointed.
- If they need time to think. For example, if an autistic person is asked what they want for dinner, they might ask themselves "What do I want for dinner?" This shows that you heard the question and want time to think.
- If they try to relate. Echolalia can be used as games or jokes.
Step 2. Remember that delayed echolalia can be used outside of social interaction
This can help autistic people in several ways:
- To remember things. Autistic children may have trouble keeping track of a series of steps. They could repeat the sequence to themselves as they go along in order to remember and make sure they are doing it correctly. For example, “Get a mug. Pour in the juice slowly. Not so fast. Put the lid back on. Good job".
- To calm down. Repeating a soothing phrase can help autistic children control their emotions and relax.
- To perform a repetitive action. Vocal repetition can help with a number of things: concentration, self-control, and a better state of affairs. If the child is upsetting other people, you could ask him to lower the volume of his voice, but it is generally better to let him have fun.
Step 3. Observe the moments when the child uses echolalia
This will help you discern its purpose.
- A child who uses echolalia before a crisis is likely to do so because of severe distress or sensory overload.
- A child who repeats your question (eg, “Do you want a cookie?” To express their desire for a cookie) may not understand the meaning or purpose of a question.
- A child who repeats phrases in a sing-song voice is likely to do so for concentration or fun.
Step 4. Manage frustrations on your part
At times it can be a frustrating experience to repeat the final parts of all your sentences and questions. Remember that the child is trying to communicate by doing so. They just don't have the same language skills as you yet.
- Breath deeply. If necessary, go to a different room for a while in case you get too frustrated, and take a few deep breaths to compose yourself.
- Remember that the child is probably frustrated too (not just for fun).
- Beware. Raising children can be exhausting at times and there is nothing wrong with admitting it. Take a bath, practice yoga, spend time with other adults, and consider joining a community group of parents or caregivers of autistic or disabled children.
Step 5. Be patient and give the child time
If autistic children don't feel pressured to respond right away, they may feel more relaxed and use language better. Be patient and make it clear that you are happy to hear that the child has something to say, no matter how long it takes.
Allow the child to pause the conversation so that he can think. Forming a coherent response could take a lot of cognitive energy on your part
- Consult an autism specialist for further help and support.
- To better understand echolalia, read information written by autistic adults who use (or used) echolalia.
- Investigate augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to obtain a temporary solution in case the child's communication skills are severely limited. Picture-sharing communication systems, sign language, and writing can serve as a springboard to help children communicate if they have speech difficulties.
- It is good to help the child, but it is not appropriate to overexert him. Children (especially autistic ones) need a lot of free time to relax.
- Be careful with the organizations you consult. Some groups demonize autism and try to eradicate it. This attitude will not help the child.