I see a number of children who can talk, but they repeat what they have heard other people say. This is called echolalia. Here are a few things that you can do to help a child who echos but doesn’t speak spontaneously:
- Break apart the chunks – if they repeat a sentence often, say different parts of it back to them. If they say “Have some milk,” you can say “Milk. Mmm, milk is good. I want some milk. I’ll have some milk now.”
- Accept any communication – gestures, sounds, echolalia. Pay close attention to what your child is telling you. Respond to their message. At the same time, model how to say it in words.
- Say things as you would like your child to say them. This teaches your child to communicate in a way that other people understand.
- Model language that is a bit more advanced than your child’s spontaneous communication. If they only echo, and don’t have any spontaneous phrases or sentences, model 1 – 3 word phrases.
- Spend lots of time interacting with your child.
- Do the same thing your child is doing, and talk about it.
- Play the same game several times, and then stop part way through. This encourages your child to communicate that they want you to continue.
- Put some preferred objects out of reach, or in clear but in tough-to-open containers. This encourages requests.
- Make funny or interesting changes to your child’s surroundings. Wear a funny hat or put a shoe on the table. This encourages comments.
- Work on lots of different reasons for communicating: to keep a game going, to refuse, to ask for more, to request an action, to request an object.
In the past, people discouraged children from echoing, but now we know that it can lead to spontaneous language. Encourage all speech!
I hope this post was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.