Echolalia is a disorder in which the person repeats words and sentences that he hears from other person during verbal communication. It usually occurs in children suffering from autism and several other medical conditions. The word echolalia is derived from Greek word ‘Echo’ which means to repeat and ‘Lalia’ means speech. Thus echolalia indicates repetition or imitation of words, sentences spoken by other person. It is automatic or unsolicited response. The best example is if you ask the child ‘do you want a ride on the boat’, instead of saying yes or no, the child will repeat full sentence or last word ‘boat’.
Repeating words and sentences is normal part of language development in a child between the ages of 1 year and 18 months. By the age of 3 years the child starts making his own words and sentences. But if it persists in a child over the age of 3 years, it is not normal. This abnormality is often present in an autistic child. However, fortunately with proper speech therapy and medication the child is able to learn the language skill as he grows.
Signs And Symptoms Of Echolalia
Echolalia is itself a symptom of many conditions.The main symptom of echolalia is repetition of words, phrases and sentences that an affected person hears. The response can be immediate or delayed after hearing. This phenomenon can be categorized into two; mitigated echolalia and ambient echolalia. In mitigated echolalia, the person may alter certain syntax and pronoun while repeating a phrase or sentence which he has heard.
In ambient category, person may not repeat the spoken words but the surrounding circumstances that had stimulated the speech. Other than this, there are several other signs and symptoms of echolalia. They are as follows:
- Person or the child instead of answering repeats what is said to him. For example if you ask the child ‘what is your name’ he will also speak the same sentence instead of answering his name. He will not come up with his own thought for making a sentence.
- The person may repeat full sentence or phrase and then answer to the question.
- Frustration at the time of verbal communication with someone.
- Increased irritability
What Are The Causes Of Echolalia?
Almost all children may pass through the phenomenon called echolalia as they grow up. It is normal for a child to repeat words and sentences when he learning to speak. Hence you must not be surprised if the child has echolalia between the age of 1 year and 2 years. But as the child grows over the age of 3 years and if he repeats the same sentence instead of thinking and making his own sentences for verbal communication, then the echolalia is abnormal.
In majority of cases children suffering from autism have echolalia as one of its symptom. An autistic child repeats what he hears instead of answering with his own understanding. This he does so to keep the conversation alive. There is delay is language learning in an autistic child. He is not able to spontaneously reply to what he hears as the thought process is still not fully developed as a result he repeats what he hears.
Echolalia is also associated with other disorders such as dementia, aphasia, epilepsy, schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome. Echolalia may also arise from anxiety and distress in certain individuals.
Alternative Therapies To Treat Echolalia
Echolalia is a natural phenomenon that almost every child has to pass till certain age. Until the child starts to learn skillful language by the age of 2 to 3 years this phenomenon is considered normal. However, if echolalia still persists after the age of 3, parents must consult the doctor. The doctor during examination and with medical history at his disposal will be able to diagnose echolalia.
Echolalia is a treatable condition. Combination of therapies may be needed. This includes speech therapy, medicines, and proper care at home by family members. Speech therapy for a child or an adult suffering from echolalia is extremely essential part of treatment.
During the treatment the therapist uses interventional therapy called cues-pause-point. In this, the therapist ask patient to answer to his question when he is told to do so. So there is a pause between a question and answering of the patient. After few seconds or a minute, patient is told to answer. This way he is allowed and taught to answer without repetition.
Some patients become anxious and depressed, they may need antidepressant medicines. Besides a regular session with speech therapist, people at home have to spend some time with the patient to encourage his communication skill.