Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 657-668

First online:

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

  • Robin E. McEvoyAffiliated withUniversity of Texas Medical School-Houston
  • , Katherine A. LovelandAffiliated withUniversity of Texas Medical School-Houston
  • , Susan H. LandryAffiliated withUniversity of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston

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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.