Echolalia and comprehension in autistic children

  • Jacqueline M. A. Roberts


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.


Common Type School Psychology Language Skill Autistic Child Language Ability 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1980).Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental & Disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  2. Baltaxe, C. A., & Simmons, J. Q. (1977). Bedtime soliloquies and linguistic competence in autism.Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 42, 376–393.Google Scholar
  3. Bartolucci, G., Pierce, S. J., & Steiner, D. (1980). Cross sectional studies of grammatical morphemes in autistic and mentally retarded children.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 10, 39–50.Google Scholar
  4. Cantwell, D., Baker, L., & Rutter, M. (1978). A comparative study of infantile autism and specific developmental receptive language disorder—IV Analysis of Syntax and function.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 19, 351–363.Google Scholar
  5. Champion, D. J. (1970).Basic statistics for social research. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  6. Fay, W. H. (1967). Mitigated echolalia of children.Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 10, 305–310.Google Scholar
  7. Fay, W. H. (1969). On the basis of autistic echolalia.Journal of Communication Disorders, 2, 38–49.Google Scholar
  8. Fay, W. H. (1980). Aspects of language. In W. H. Fay & A. L. Schuler (Eds.),Emerging language in autistic children. London: Arnold.Google Scholar
  9. Fay, W. H., & Butler, B. V. (1968). Echolalia, IQ and the developmental dichotomy of speech and language systems.Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 11, 365–371.Google Scholar
  10. Fay, W. H., & Coleman, R. D. (1977). A human sound transducer/reproducer: Temporal capabilities of a profoundly echolalic child.Brain and Language, 4, 376–402.Google Scholar
  11. Hedrick, D. L., Prather, E. M., Tobin, A. R. (1975).Sequenced inventory of communication development. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  12. Howlin, P. (1982). Echolalic and spontaneous phrase speech in autistic children.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 23, 281–293.Google Scholar
  13. Itard, J. M. G. (1825). Memoires sur quelques fonctions des appareils de la locomotion de la prehension et de la voix.Archives Generales de Medecine, 8, 385–407.Google Scholar
  14. Kanner, L. (1943). Autistic disturbances of affective contact.Nervous Child, 2, 217–250.Google Scholar
  15. Kanner, L. (1946). Irrelevant and metaphorical language in early infantile autism.American Journal of Psychiatry, 103, 242–246.Google Scholar
  16. Lovaas, O. I., Koegel, R., Simmons, J. O., & Stevens-Long, J. (1973). Some generalization and follow-up measures on autistic children in behavior therapy.Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, 6, 131–166.Google Scholar
  17. Philips, G. M., & Dyer, C. (1977). Late onset echolalia in autism and applied disorders.British Journal of Comunication Disorders, 12, 47–59.Google Scholar
  18. Pick, A. (1924). On the pathology of echographia,Brain, 47, 417–429.Google Scholar
  19. Prizant, B. M., & Duchan, J. F. (1981). The functions of immediate echolalia in autistic children.Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 46, 241–249.Google Scholar
  20. Rutter, M., & Lockyer, L. (1967). A five to fifteen year follow-up study of infantile psychosis. II: Social and behavioural outcome.British Journal of Psychiatry, 113, 1183–1199.Google Scholar
  21. Schuler, A. L. (1979). Echolalia: Issues and clinical applications.Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 4, 411–434.Google Scholar
  22. Shapiro, T. (1977). The Speech Act: A Linguistic frame of reference to study ego adaptation of a psychotic child. In N. Freedman & S. Grant (Eds.),Communicative structures and psychic structures. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  23. Shapiro, T., Roberts, A., & Fish, B. (1970). Imitation and echoing in young schizophrenic children.Journal of American Academic Child Psychiatry, 9, 548–567.Google Scholar
  24. Stengel, E. (1964). Speech disorders and mental disorders. In A. U. S. de Reuck & M. O'Connor (eds.),Disorders of language (pp. 285–287). Boston: Little Brown.Google Scholar
  25. Winer, B. S. (1971)Statistical principles of experimental design (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  26. Zipf, G. K. (1949).Human behavior and the principle of least effort. New York: Hafner.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacqueline M. A. Roberts
    • 1
  1. 1.The Autistic Association of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations