top of page

Is your Autistic child a Gestalt Language Processor?

Updated: May 14

Is your Autistic child a Gestalt Language Processor

There has been ongoing research regarding how your child's language processing patterns can be used to help provide speech therapy to children with autism, who have a hard time learning language through traditional speech therapy.

The newest therapy makes use of gestalt language processing/ echolalia pattern for language development in children with ASD.

What is language processing?

Understanding how your child develops language skills can be quite helpful as it helps you communicate better with them and also helps your speech therapist choose appropriate lines of therapy for them.

There are two types of language processing: Analytical & Gestalt.

  • Analytical language processing Child understands and learns the meaning of single words, following which they start using the words in their own phrases. It's like learning from basics to complex.

  • Gestalt language processing Children instead of learning the meaning of one word at a time, memorize whole phrases/ sentences. They work backwards by breaking phrases to single words. A child with gestalt language processing often presents as delayed echolalia, it is where a child hears a phrase and repeats/ echoes it later on.

For instance, the child may hear in their favorite song, ‘we all fall down’, and when the child falls down in future they may use ‘we all fall down' instead of ‘ I fall down’. Here what the child is doing is they see a scenario and they relate the phrase ‘we all fall down' to falling down and getting hurt, they can't understand the meaning of single words.

Research shows that 75-80% of children with ASD are Gestalt language processors.

Difference between Analytical and Gestalt language processing

Analytical language processing

  • Conventional language acquiring process.

  • Child learns words first. (eg. Eat)

  • Child progresses to combining words to form phrases. (eg. I want to eat)

Gestalt language processing

  • Child imitates/ repeats the phrases they have already heard.

  • Child learns phrases first.

  • As the child develops, they break down the phrases to understand the meaning of single words. (Backward learning)

  • Child then uses single words to form new phrases of their own.

What is echolalia?

Echolalia derives from two words 'echo' and 'lalia', 'echo' means 'to repeat' and 'lalia' means 'speech'. This may include repeating phrases the child picks up from movies, tv shows, even day to day conversations.

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.

Types of echolalia

Based on delay in repetition, it is classified into various types.

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

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

Key information for you if your child seems to be a Gestalt language processor.

  • You shouldn't ignore it as a phase if your child is repeating memorized phrases.

  • They may not understand the meaning of the single words.

  • However, as they acquire language skills, they start breaking down the sentences into single words.

  • They learn to use those words in a variety of phrases.

If you notice your child repeating phrases, or using echolalia:-

  • Do not ignore it, the phrase could potentially carry some significance. For instance, if the child says ‘are you hungry’, it could mean ‘I am hungry’.

  • Repeating a phrase or question can be a way of saying ‘yes’. For instance, when you ask ‘do you wanna play outside’ and the child repeats ‘wanna play outside’ it could mean ‘yes’).

  • If your child seems to have echolalia, you should refer to a speech therapist. They help you better understand the condition and can provide your child with appropriate speech therapy, and also advise you with various tips and tricks to help your child develop speech effectively.

  • Become a detective’ about where your child is learning there phrases from, as it can help you understand the meaning behind them.

  • Avoid asking questions, instead listen and be curious. It can help you understand the echoed phrases.

Gestalt language processing for Autism Spectrum Disorder

It is relatively new type of speech therapy. The ultimate goal for Gestalt learners is to eventually help them develop language skills properly. We at Sounderic focus on embracing child's skills and child-led play to help your little one develop language skills.

Various stages of Gestalt language processing are:

Mitigated gestalt- involves trimming down sentences, or mixing and matching two simple phrases together.

For eg- Tommy would like strawberries?

Trimming- Like strawberry.

Mixing- Tommy, would you like some fruit?

Combinations- it involves breaking down the phrase/ sentence to individual words. Language may seem less complex during this phase but the child's comprehension is expanding.

For Eg- Tommy, would you like apples?

Tommy replies- Want apple.

Self generated language- in this phase the children try to form sentences on their own by combining memorized phrases and sentences. Grammatical errors are common in this stage.

For Eg- Tommy would like strawberries?

I want eating strawberries.

Simple grammar formation- in this stage the child develops understanding for simple grammar.

Eg- I want to eat strawberries.

Complex grammar- while developing simple grammar the child simultaneously develops complex grammar skills too.

Eg- I'm so hungry, I want to eat strawberries

It can be quite helpful for you to know what stage you child is in for you to help them progress.

Are you noticing that conventional speech therapy isn’t resonating with your autistic child? Watch this to find out.

The ultimate goal of speech therapy for Gestalt processors is to help them use self- developed speech effectively. Speech therapy for kids is most effective when it's incorporated in the most natural and engaging way. Our speech therapists use child based play interventions and various fun activities to provide speech therapy for kids.

For Gestalt language processors may not acquire language at the same pace as their peers, some detective works from their care-givers, consistent practice and patience are key to help them accomplish day to day therapy goals.

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

Follow us on Facebook, and Instagram or join our community of 18,000 parents from all across the world here, "Speech therapy guide for parents".


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page