Is Your Child Repeating Everything? They Are Probably a Gestalt Language Processor!

Jan 24, 2022

Written By: Karina Lee, M.S., CCC-SLP

Does your child repeat everyone? They may be a gestalt learning!

Echolalia is the immediate or delayed repetition of language

Scripting is the repetition of words, phrases, or sounds from other people’s speech – sometimes from movies/tv shows.

Gestalt language processors are children who process early language in “strings of sounds” or “chunks,” rather than processing single words. Though this can be common with Autistic children, many people acquire knowledge this way. Think about how you may have learned phrases when learning a new language before you began to understand what each word meant to use those words in new utterances.

Matthew is working with AAC device in speech therapy
Mathew working with his AAC device in Speech Therapy.

This video shows Mathews – a verbal AAC user who has difficulty using spontaneous language. His speech-generating device is typically utilized for others to model language, to prompt him to use language, and to decrease immediate echolalia.

In this video, you can see Matthews beginning to use phrases more spontaneously and beginning to alter the phrases he’s learned for the appropriate scenario:

  • Mathews independently states “red starfish” to fill in my statement: “let’s find a ____” (no echolalia!)
  • He produces immediate echolalia when he drops an object and repeats “uh oh!”
  • He then produces delayed echolalia when he mumbles “where’s baby” under his breath as he had previously looked for a baby.
  • On his device, he is modeled a more general phrase he can use when searching, “where is it?”
  • After searching for a bit, he puts his hand over his face, looking a little frustrated, so The SLP asks, “do you want…” and points to “help” icon on AAC device, which prompts him to verbalize “help” and answer the question of needing help with “yes” (no echolalia!)
  • The SLP’s gasp was a prompt from previous times when an object was found… *gasp* “look, I got it!” (with hands in the air). Mathews was able to utilize this script and gestural cues of hands in the air and the over exaggerated gasp helped him remember when to use the script!

Mathews is in Stage 2 and is using mitigated echolalia. He is learning how to “mix and match” phrases he has been modeled or has already learned and is on his way to using more spontaneous language and self-generated grammar.

Examples of the stages of echolalia to self-generated grammar: What stage do you think your child is in?


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