You must have heard your child say the same thing repeatedly, sometimes getting on your nerves, but have you ever wondered why the child is the way they are? It can be called repetitive Language or echolalia, where the child repeats the exact words or phrases persistently. Echolalia is a stage of child development where words or phrases are repeated while learning a Repetitive Language, around age 3. Their language skills can improve and become more accurate by age 4-5. However, when it comes to Autism, the situation is very different.
Children with Autism may speak complex grammatical structures repeatedly, and repetitive sentences may have no apparent meaning or purpose. The child may have heard these words somewhere but modified them in a way that did not convey a specific message.
Why does an Autistic Child use repetitive Language?
There can be many reasons which may differ from neurotypical brain functioning because an autistic brain operates differently.
- Communication: Your child wants to communicate using those common words because he finds the right way to communicate difficult.
- Social Communication: Although it may seem unusual to others, this may be the way autistic children talk or give their opinions in an attempt to engage in social interactions
- Self-motivation: Repeating familiar words makes them feel that the situation is predictable and safe, which can be otherwise overwhelming or stressful.
- Language Development: Echolalia bridges a gap between listening and speaking because repeated words or phrases help them process and learn Language.
Also, Check: intoing in children
Types of Echolalia/ Repetitive Language:
Children may repeat the phrases as soon as they hear them, immediate echolalia. For example, if a person says, “Come here, please,” the kid may respond with, “Come here, please”. Repetitive Language helps autistic children process and comprehend what is being said.
It entails the delayed repetition of phrases. The child may repeat lines from TV shows, videos, or conversations that took place days or weeks in the past, Delayed Echolalia. It may be an expression of a coping mechanism, as repeated phrases create an experience of predictability in worrying surroundings.
How can I tell if Repetitive Language is due to Autism?
Well, that is more complex. Autistic brains function in a different manner than neurotypical brains, and sometimes, the response of an autistic child can be bizarre. If you ask a neurotypical child, “Do you want to go out for a walk?” they may repeat after you, “Want to go out for a walk?” as part of their early language development. But, an autistic child might respond by repeating, “Do you want to go out for a walk?” It indicates that the child may not fully comprehend the question and is simply echoing the phrase to process it properly.
Similarly, a neurotypical child may respond to a parent saying ‘I am going to store’ with ‘going to store’ excitedly. But autistic children end up repeating, ‘I am going to the store’ without fully grasping what is being said.
Also, Check: what is genu valgum or knock knees
How can I help my child transition from echolalia to the usual Language?
When it comes to managing Autism, your patience and support are the most important steps taken for your child’s mental health.
- Talk to the child and let them know you are there for them. It will build a strong bond with your child.
- Use visual tools such as graphic charts, visual cues, or schedules to improve understanding and communication and to reduce reliance on Repetitive Language.
- Create a planned and predictable daily routine that helps autistic children feel more secure.
- Don’t try to suppress it altogether. Instead, add a few words or ask a relevant question to encourage sentence exchange or more understanding.
- Echolalia may respond to sensory perception that can be suppressed by detecting and avoiding stimuli.
- Collaborate with a professional team for a comprehensive and practical approach to managing Language in Autism.
- Speech therapists who can help improve expressive speech
- Occupational therapists help your child develop skills necessary for daily living activities.
- Special educators who can develop individualized programs with targeted communication goals.
For more detailed guidance about Repetitive Language and helpful resources, contact Dr. Owais Rafiq.