Echolalia…AKA Turn Off The “Repeat” Button

In my last post I wrote about one or our our main struggles with B’s ASD.

Actually I wrote more about me and my speech apraxia, but well, I had to explain why I am so gung-ho on my child’s communication.

Anyway, I digress.

After we got over the initial hump last year of his communication delay, we discovered something else was underneath it.

Isn’t that always the case? 

This is how I discovered echolalia. Echolalia actually manifests itself in different forms – from repeated phrasing, to saying something out of the clear blue sky, or relaying a whole conversation that he really doesn’t comprehend.

I really didn’t know much about it until his SLP at last year’s ECSE brought up perservative speech. Looking it up, it really started to become clear.

My son is like a broken record.

He’ll repeat EVERYTHING you say, or he’ll repeat some phrase he’s picked up from TV or our conversation. He will say it over and over (and over and over…) – even if you answer his question/request/statement the first time. Or the second time, and even the eighth time. Then it slowly drives you slightly more mad until his phrasing starts skipping in your mind. I start to twitch. And then I start to flashback to Rain Man. 

A very simple example:

B: “Snack?”

Me: “Sure, Goldfish or yogurt?” (Giving him the picture chart to help)

B: “Snack?”

Me: “Yes…Goldfish or yogurt?” (Pointing at each picture)

B: “Goldfish” (Pause.) “Yogurt”

Repeat this about five fifteen times until you want to pull out your hair. Then give him Goldfish AND yogurt. Or anything, just shut.up.already. Le Sigh. Then cue a round of mommy guilt. Repeat as necessary.

Perservative speech in the communication realm also involves an amazing memory. Well, that’s what I believe in a total non medical sort of way. I mean, how else can you pull out some inane reference from Max and Ruby that you saw two weeks ago? Or recite a phrase to One Fish Two Fish as I’m reading?

A Rain Man FreakoutPersonally, sometimes I think he gets a little anxiety attack and he uses this as a coping mechanism. You have to understand, for almost three years of his life he wasn’t able to verbally express himself (with exception to wailing, whining). Don’t get me wrong, we still have many days where he gets so wound up that he will have a setback. Like this weekend, when he couldn’t tell us he lost something and proceeded to tantrum for 40 minutes.

It’s taking a lot of time, but we are working on it. We’re trying to model our speech so that he can imitate it…well maybe not the cursing part of it. We have to constantly remind him to “use his words” and to calm down before trying to launch into a flurry of nonsensical babble.

There are better days, when he will respond in an appropriate manner, and not simply parroting our processes. Like if he requests specifically French Toast Sticks for dinner. Hey, “Brinner” IS cool!

Oh and to stop talking like Bob Dole. Kid loves his name so much, he uses it as much as possible in everyday situations.

Me: “B, did you have fun today at school?”

B: “B played on the playground”

Me: “No…I played on the playground”

B: “Yeah, B played on the playground” with a look that is all, duh Mother.

We’ll work on that too.


About OneLoCoMommy

I live in Northern Virginia and and I look like the stereotypical suburban mom, for better or for worse. My son plays baseball and takes karate (albeit adaptive). My daughter is a gymnastics diva but rolls with the boys in T-ball. I've been a Room Mom and Playdate Coordinator. I work full-time, try to work out, and love my Book Club. However, I also blog on my experiences on our ASD, SPD and ADHD journey while trying to be a better parent advocate. All in a life's work.
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4 Responses to Echolalia…AKA Turn Off The “Repeat” Button

  1. Denise says:

    I must admit I love hearing B talk. I know you guys are working on stuff but he is so cute when he repeats me or talks like Bob Dole. Sorry, I know it’s easy for me to find it adorable.


  2. AspieSide says:

    Hi I found you through the SPD Bloggernetwork. I agree with you that anxiety is somehow involved, at least with my son. My son is 14 with Aspergers and is usually articulate but not in moments of stress. Sometimes he becomes non verbal but then other times he will say a related phrase. For example in the middle of the day today I asked him to do something he didn’t want to do. He started to get aggravated and said “goodnight”. I am sure he meant “goodbye” or “leave me alone”. He clearly knows what goodnight means and when to use it but for whatever reason in that moment that was the word he “pulled out” when he was stressed. I find it very interesting and I wonder if they have done research on it and if not they should.


    • Yes! It happens all the time. It’s like the “Telephone” game – where the word or phrase gets skewed as it travels from his brain to his mouth! Thank you for assuring me I’m not the only one to think this!


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