Monday, October 17, 2011

How To Stop Echolalia In Autistic Children

Echolalia is a repetition of some form of dialogue that the Autistic child has heard. It can be repeated immediately or in can be repeated per verbatim at a later stage.
An example of immediate echolalia would be when someone asks the child "how are you?" and the child repeats "how are you?"
This can include complete dialogues that the Autistic child has heard from a conversation or a movie or radio broadcast.
It may not have a meaning to them at the time but they just repeat it.
Echolalia can be a little confusing when the child uses it all the time and then gets frustrated when people don't understand what they are trying to communicate.
An example of this would be if you asked the child what they wanted for lunch, a hamburger or a hotdog. An Autistic child with echolalia would say hotdog as it is the last thing they would have heard even if it was the hamburger they really wanted then they may get upset when presented with the hotdog.
Echolalia is being used by the child with Autism as a means of processing words and storing the words or complete dialogue for further use.
It increases their word bank and at times you may hear them practicing their dialogue using similar tones or inflections in speech as they heard it until they think that they got it right.
If careful attention is paid when listening to a child with echolalia, you may find that in their speech, there may be a link to what ever it is they are saying even in dialogue and what the situation is that is going on.
There are ways to stop or significantly decrease echolalia.
Present the Autistic child with two items, one that you know that they want, and one that you know they don't want.
When you offer the two items to the child, put the one that they don't want last.
For example, if you know that they like balls but they don't like puzzles, ask them "Do you want the ball or the puzzle?"
They will initially repeat "The puzzle".
At which point, hand the puzzle to them. They may get a little frustrated and make a grab for the ball and at that point you would repeat the question "Do you want the ball or the puzzle?"
As you ask, extend the ball towards them when you say ball and then extend the puzzle when you say puzzle.
After a couple or more times of this, the Autistic child with echolalia usually is starting to understand that they need to listen to what you are saying in order to get what they want.
Obviously you are going to start them out slowly and not make the requesting sentences too long or complicated as you just want them to get the idea that if they listen to your question and take the time to think about it, then answer by naming what it is they want, they will get what they desire.
Obviously your success in stopping the echolalia depends on the degree of Autism that they have but you should definitely be able to decrease it significantly in any case.
As time progresses this can be used for other more complex conversational situations and evoke more appropriate conversational responses from the autistic child with echolalia for questions such as how are you and what is your name.
Taken slowly but consistently, echolalia in an autistic child can be decreased significantly to the point where only an experienced person could pick it up.
Donna Mason has been a Registered Nurse for the past 16 years. She is the mother of 6 children, 3 of whom have varying degrees of Autism. For more information on Autism signs and symptoms, and to learn more about this mother's battle in the fight against this misunderstood condition, visit us on the web at:
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