Echolalia

Written by Heaven Stubblefield | Published on September 24, 2013
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on September 24, 2013

What Is Echolalia?

Echolalia is a condition associated with autism. People with echolalia repeat noises and phrases that they hear. They may not be able to communicate effectively because they struggle to express their own thoughts. For example, if asked a question, they might be able only to repeat the question rather than answer it.

What Causes Echolalia?

Many forms of autism can lead to echolalia. Some patients experience this issue only when they are distressed or anxious. Others experience it all the time. This may eventually cause them to be mute because they cannot express themselves.

Echolalia is a natural part of the language-learning process. All children experience it at some point. Most of them are able to develop independent thought as they age, but some continue to repeat what they hear.

Who Is at Risk for Echolalia?

All children experience echolalia when they learn a spoken language. Those with communication disabilities hold on to echoed expressions much longer. Autistic children are particularly susceptible to echolalia.

Adults who suffer from severe amnesia or head trauma may experience echolalia as they try to regain their speaking abilities.

What Are the Symptoms of Echolalia?

The main symptom of echolalia is the repetition of phrases and noises that have been heard. For example, a child with echolalia may repeat a question instead of answering it.

Other signs of echolalia may include frustration during conversations, depression, and muteness. A patient may be unusually irritable, especially when asked questions.

How Is Echolalia Diagnosed?

Echolalia can be diagnosed by having a conversation with a patient. If the patient struggles to do anything other than repeat what has been said, he or she may have echolalia. Some autistic children are regularly tested for this during their speech lessons.

Echolalia ranges from minor to severe. Some patients combine phrases they know to make new ones. This may not reflect an answer to a question. A doctor can identify the stage of echolalia and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

How Is Echolalia Treated?

Echolalia may be treated through the following methods:

Medications

 A doctor can prescribe antidepressants or anxiety medications to combat the side effects of echolalia. This will not treat the condition itself, but it will help keep the patient calm.

Home Care

Patients may work with other people at home to develop their communication skills. There are text and online training programs available to help parents get positive responses from their children.

Alternative Therapies

Some echolalia patients go to regular speech therapy sessions. This helps them learn how to say what they are thinking.

What Is the Outlook for Echolalia?

Echolalia is not always permanent. Some patients go through it only in childhood. For patients with permanent echolalia, life can be quite frustrating. Most echolalia patients suffer from anxiety and depression because they cannot communicate with others around them. Many refrain from speaking altogether.

How Is Echolalia Prevented?

Echolalia is a natural part of developing language skills. It is not always a good idea to prevent it completely. To avoid permanent echolalia, parents must encourage other forms of communication. Expose a child to a wide variety of words and phrases. Remain patient during episodes of echolalia. In time, most children are able to overcome their echolalia naturally.

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