Immediate And Delayed Echolalia

Amythest Schaber is a popular YouTube persona that makes videos about autism from the point of view of somebody who was diagnosed with autism – herself. Apart from her YouTube channel, she writes a blog about the spectrum and shares her personal stories to the world. In this particular video she talks about echolalia, one of the most common symptoms in autism that involve repetition of sounds and words.  In the first few minutes of the video she differentiates between two types of echolalia: immediate and delayed echolalia.

Immediate And Delayed Echolalia
Immediate And Delayed Echolalia

Immediate And Delayed Echolalia

Immediate echolalia is something that is most associated with autistic people, she says, the immediate repetition of words and sounds by autistic people. After autistic people hear something, they repeat it right afterwards. Amythest points out rightly that many non-autistic people actually misunderstand the meaning of immediate echolalia, and think that it points out that echolalia is a sign of inattention and disengagement with reality that autism is sometimes associated with. It does NOT point to lack of intelligence and is not a sign of not understanding the signs and words that are being spoken to them. Amythest says that it could actually have something to do with creating an original language with original words.

According to her, immediate echolalia actually serves as a sort of buffer between the question that was aimed at an autistic person and their response. They might repeat these words in order to think of a response that is being processed in their mind at that particular moment. Immediate echolalia can also mean that an autistic person you are speaking to is actually paying a lot of attention to what you are saying and the fact that they are repeating after you is their way of showing you that yes, your words are important to them and they are expressing similar feelings towards the same situation as you are. So, according to Amythest there are three main way of why autistic people use immediate echolalia:

  1. As a way to process and come up with an appropriate response.
  2. In order to engage and interact with others
  3. A method of expression that lets them talk about what they really want and need

Immediate and delayed echolalia both involve repetition, but whereas immediate echolalia happens right after the repeated word/sentence/phrase, delayed echolalia does after a certain period of time. It is a lot more difficult to recognize since it can happen not only hours but days, months, weeks and years after the content was heard. Reasons for using delayed echolalia included, but not limited to:

  • Communication
  • Routine/feeling of completion
  • In order to express what they want and need

Both, immediate and delayed echolalia are common symptoms of autism. Many parents get scared by the word autism, but it is not scary, and autistic individuals are highly capable of living to their fullest potential. It is, however, essential to catch symptoms of autism early in order to start helping these kids as soon as possible. Parents need to educate themselves on these early symptoms in order to be able to flag them as soon as they appear.

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