I am curious to know if every child on the spectrum repeats words, sounds, or phrases. However, it has been my experience that I have observed with my child. Before I knew anything about this behavior, I was irritated because he would express his utterings at an inopportune moment or sometimes out of context.

Known as echolalia, it is prevalent in toddlers. We observe this phenomenon when they are in the early stages of forming words and language. Repeating and rehearsing words is a normal behavior when developing language. However, as kids age and begin to experience social environments, it can be an unpleasant experience and cause embarrassment in some social circles.

Typical communication uses fundamentals such as awareness of speech, using and interpreting nonverbal cues, Listening and responding reflectively to others, and applying and adjusting messages according 

Communication involves being social, which could be a struggle for youths on the spectrum—navigating all the nuances of environments, surroundings, and relationships. Each with its own set of rules, behaviors, and judgments.    

Diving deeper into echolalia

The repetitive phrases often come with no motivation; the words can often be recounted from memory from weeks/ days/months that somehow surface in the mind from out of nowhere. Echolalia can be both interactive and non-interactive forms of communication. Interactive echolalia functions as normal conversation; however, It comes across as the opposite; as I have stated before, the speech can seem out of context. In contrast, non-interactive communication of echolalia is a speech expressed for personal use and self-stimulation. 

Examples of interactive echolalia:

  • Turn-taking uses words to fill an alternating exchange. 
  • Verbal Completion is speech that echoes familiar phrases and routines- spoken by others in past social interactions.  
  • Providing information is a form of language that may offer the answer, but instead of a direct answer, it is more of a clue to the answer. 
  • Requests may resemble asking themselves questions.

Examples of non-interactive echolalia:

  • Nonfunctioning words are not used to express the environment or situation; the language is often unmatched.
  •  Circumstances and connections to an experience can provoke a language response.
  • Rehearsal is repeating the exact phrase continuously 
  • Self-direction is repeating directions or instructions to walk themselves through processes.



 Farnsworth, C. (2022, November 25). What is echolalia, and how does it relate to ADHD? Www.medicalnewstoday.com. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/echolalia-adhd#types

Gotter, A. (2013, September 24). Echolalia. Healthline; Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/echolalia