English: Approximate outline of development pe...

Approximate outline of development periods in postnatal human development until what generally is regarded as adulthood. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By definition, echolalia is repetition of sounds made by others.  It is a normal occurrence in child development.

In psychiatry it is the immediate and involuntary repetition of words or phrases just spoken by others; often a symptom of autism or some types of schizophrenia.

In medicine it is a disorder seen in certain psychotic states and in certain organic brain syndromes. Also known as echophrasia. (The Free Dictionary)

Being aware that no two children are the same, I try to recall an echolalic phase my son wenth through and compare it with descriptions from sites and blogs on developmental delays and disorder in children.

Life with Little Children illustrates:

Echolalia means repeating back (echo) things that are said (lalia). For example your would ask, “What do you want?” and instead of answering you, they would respond with, “What do you want?” Or they parrot your around like when you say, “Look, there’s the stop sign” and they echo “There’s the stop sign.”

Young child playing at ease in a squatting pos...

Young child playing at ease in a squatting position (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once I showed my son an illustrated Bible story.  A minute into the first page, he looked up from the book and addressed me, “This is Jesus?” “He’s walking on the water?” “on the water?” “on the water?”  The way I see it it’s himself he repeats after particularly the phrase of his own observation.  He does not necessarily repeat what I say to him.  If he does, he says it in question form and echoes himself.

At three he can sing a hymn, recite verses, or cheekily point his chopstick at me and exclaim (Harry Potter’s) lumos maxima!  But he can’t ask for milk when he needs it.  He memorizes almost the entire content of his Baby Einstein DVDs, names critters in his animal book I don’t even know of, but often I have to ask him if heeds to got to the bathroom because he never does even when he is supposed to.

While echolalia is known to behin at around 18 months of age, peaks at 30 months and declines significantly by the time a child turns 3, my son’s speech seemed normal until he turned 4.  His developmental pediatrician was pensive, “did he regress?”

This is the silver lining that I am looking for:

Echolalia is actually a positive sign that children with developmental problems may eventually be able to learn to use language to communicate. (Teach Me To Talk)

The purpose of echolalia is unclear, but it has been believed to serve a number of functions, including conversation maintenance, communication, self-soothing and verbal rehearsal. (Bright Tots)

And something I am most happy about is that my son is now talking normally again after two years of speech therapy.

12 thoughts on “Echolalia

  1. I remember when sister was still a toddler, that my parents would normally ask us to talk to her like an adult. So that she would not baby talk and actually learn how to talk normally. Is this the same with echolalia?

    • Not exactly, Ness. Echolalia is basically repetition of sounds, words, phrases or entire sentences made by others; eg. shout in a cave and listen to exactly the same thing you shouted – same way as when you witness a child repeat more than once what an adult says. Your parents sound like they just want your sister to learn to talk appropriately for her age.

  2. It’s good to know that your son’s speech is normal again. It’s only now that I heard of Echolalia. My friend’s son is already 5 years old but can’t talk straight. I advised my friend to have his son checked but she’s hesitant. May be your post could convince her. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Hi Rossel, it is feedback like yours that makes me happy to have mused and shared a post like this. If this shows potential to be of help to someone in whatever way, then I am happy. Thanks for letting me know that and please do encourage your friend to have her son checked by a specialist.

  3. the first time i’ve heard of the word, i think it is a very effective way to encourage a kid to speak and communicate. I imagine how he would say lumos maxima, cute 🙂

  4. Has it been two years already when I first visited your blogs? (the other one though) It’s really wonderful to know that your little professor is doing good…I bet he has lots of stories to tell…(if not to write). Enjoy the rest of your week!

  5. I’m not familiar with Echolalia, but thanks to your post now I learned something new. I don’t have children of my own yet, but I’ll make sure to check them for echolalia when I do. Thanks!

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