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Echolalia: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Speech Therapy

Echolalia example

Echolalia derives from two words 'echo' and 'lalia', 'echo' means 'to repeat' and 'lalia' means 'speech'. Echolalia is an involuntary, automatic, and effortless behavior. It is normally observed when a child develops speech, but it can be a problematic thing if it persists in life ahead.

A child with echolalia repeats noises and sentences. They often face difficulties communicating effectively as they end up repeating what you say to them. For instance, when you ask your child a question, instead of answering it they end up repeating it.

Ecolalia is observed as a part of normal language development in children. By the age of 2 yrs toddlers start mixing their own words along with repeating what you say to them. And by the age of 3 yrs you can observe minimal echolalia.

Causes/ Etiology of echolalia:

As stated above all children experience echolalia as they develop speech. Most of the children develop independent speech as they grow, however in some cases echolalia can persist. Few underlying causes of echolalia are:-

  1. Autism spectrum disorder- echolalia is characteristically observed in children with autism. It was first described by Kaneer in 1943, in 11 children with autism. It is used as a coping mechanism when the child can't come up with a spontaneous response.

  2. Tourette syndrome- it is a neurodevelopmental disorder that has childhood onset. It is characterized by motor and vocal tics. Here the person abruptly yells random things (vocal tic) or, they have abnormal jerky movements (motor tic).

  3. An adult may experience echolalia after stroke or head trauma as they try to regain their speech.

  4. Sometimes it is observed in people with anxiety and distress.

  5. It is also observed in various psychiatric illnesses like, delirium, schizophrenia, confusional states, etc,.

  6. It is also observed in neurological conditions like dementia, encephalitis, epilepsy, and much more.

Symptoms of echolalia

There's only one symptom of echolalia and that is repetition of sounds of phrases that the child hears.

It can lead to anxiety, stress, frustration, decreased social participation and irritability in the child.

Types of echolalia

It is further classified into various types.

  • Based on delay in response, types of echolalia are-

    1. Immediate echolalia- where a child repeats the phrase immediately after hearing it. 

    2. Delayed echolalia- here the child usually repeats the phrase a few hours to a few days after hearing it. 

  • Based on alteration in repeated speech it can be-

    1. Mitigated echolalia- where the child repeats the speech in altered form.

    2. Unmitigated echolalia- here the child repeats the speech in unaltered form, i.e. exact repetition.

  • Based on the stimulus-

    1. Ambient echolalia- repetition of phrases from the environment (bus, TV, car, tablet, phones, etc)

    2. Echoing approval- is when the person repeats in response to another person's question. It can sometimes be in response to a question that's not even addressed to them.

  • Based on the function:

    1. Functional/ interactive echolalia- when the child repeats stuff with an intent of communication. Few examples are- taking turns

    2. Non-interactive echolalia- when the child says things for personal stimulation. Few examples are- nonfocused

Treatment of echolalia -

The treatment of echolalia is often a combination of speech therapy, medication, and, home therapy.

Speech therapy-

A speech-language pathologist will evaluate the child by having a conversation with them and grading the stage of echolalia based on the severity of the condition.

A speech therapist then formulated a therapy plan as per the requirements of the child. The therapy sessions are focused on helping the child learn how to speak what they are thinking.

A common approach used by speech therapists is 'cues- pause- point'. Here the therapist asks the child a question. Then the child has to wait for the doctor to ask them when to reply. And the therapist also holds up cue cards with the correct answer to assist the child.


Usually, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication is prescribed when the echolalia is induced by anxiety or stress. These medications can also be effective to calm a patient with echolalia, as stress and anxiety can be induced when the person has difficulty in communication.

Practice at home

As a child spends most of his/ her time at home, therefore it is very important to practice at home as well. Your child's speech therapist will suggest you various activities and also provide you with worksheets and visual aids to help practice at home.

There are various online self-training programs available that can help you overcome echolalia at your home too.

As it is well-established echolalia is a normal part of development in a child, therefore complete omission of echolalia in a child is not suggested. But to prevent this condition you should expose your child to a wide variety of words, pictures, rhymes, and various other cues.

Sounderic provides online speech therapy sessions for children with various communication disorders. We would love to help you. Get in touch with us on WhatsApp at +919644466635 or schedule a consultation with us at

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