, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 271-281

Echolalia and comprehension in autistic children

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The research reported in this paper investigates the phenomenon of echolalia in the speech of autistic children by examining the relationship between the frequency of echolalia and receptive language ability. The receptive language skills of 10 autistic children were assessed, and spontaneous speech samples were recorded. Analysis of these data showed that those children with poor receptive language skills produced significantly more echolalic utterances than those children whose receptive skills were more age-appropriate. Children who produced fewer echolalic utterances, and had more advanced receptive language ability, evidenced a higher proportion of mitigated echolalia. The most common type of mitigation was echo plus affirmation or denial.

This work is part of a research project undertaken under the auspices of the English and Linguistics Department of Macquarie Unitersity, Sydney, Australia. I thank Dr. Barbara Dodd, who has been an invaluable guide and support throughout this project, and the staff and students of the schools of The Autistic Association of New South Wales for their cooperation and interest. Thanks also to Dr. Sue Bettison, Mr. Frank Higgins, and Mrs. Jenny Daniell for assisting with the preparation of this manuscript.