, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 657-668

The functions of immediate echolalia in autistic children: A developmental perspective

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This study examined differences in the use of immediate echolalia by autistic children at different stages of language development. Eighteen autistic children, aged 4 to 12 years, were videotaped in play sessions with a parent and with an examiner. Data were collected on frequency of echolalia, percentage of language that was echolalic, functions of echolalia (Prizant & Duchan, 1981), chronological age, nonverbal mental age, and language level. Frequency of immediate echolalia varied with expressive language level but not with nonverbal mental age or chronological age. The percentage of language that was echolalic was high at early stages of language development but decreased as language skills improved. No significant relationships were found between number of functions and language level, chronologoical age, or nonverbal mental age. Although coding of functions was reliable, the validity of functional categories for echolalia was not strongly supported. Implications for autistic language development and for methodology in this area are discussed.

This paper is based on a master's thesis by the first author submitted to the University of Houston-University Park in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master's of Science degree in Psychology. The work described was supported in part by grant #N518448 and grant #N523658 from NINCDS. The authors would like to thank Belgin Tunali and Michelle Kelley for their help in coding.