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Treatment of Echolalia in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Systematic Review


Echolalia can lead to communication breakdowns that increase the likelihood of social failure and stigmatization in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In an effort to facilitate evidenced-based intervention and inform future research, this systematic review analyzes peer-reviewed studies involving the treatment of echolalia in individuals with ASD. Using predetermined inclusion criteria, a total of 11 studies were identified, reviewed, and summarized in terms of the following: (a) participant characteristics (e.g., verbal and cognitive functioning), (b) type of echolalia (e.g., delayed or immediate), (c) intervention procedures, (d) intervention outcomes, (e) maintenance and generalization of outcomes, and (f) research design and other indicators of rigor (i.e., certainty of evidence). Nine studies successfully reduced echolalia in a total of 17 participants. However, only six of those nine studies met criteria to be classified as providing the highest level of certainty (i.e., conclusive). The findings of this review suggest that a number of treatment options can be considered promising practices for the treatment of echolalia in children with ASD. Although no single treatment package can be described as well-established evidence-based practice, all 11 studies involved behavior analytic intervention components, suggesting strong support for operant-based treatments. In particular, behavior analytic interventions demonstrating conclusive levels of evidence included cues-pause-point, differential reinforcement of lower rates of behavior, script training plus visual cues, and verbal modeling plus positive reinforcement for appropriate responses. Implications for practitioners and directions for future research are offered.

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*Indicates studies which were included in this review

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Correspondence to Leslie Neely.

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Neely, L., Gerow, S., Rispoli, M. et al. Treatment of Echolalia in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Systematic Review. Rev J Autism Dev Disord 3, 82–91 (2016).

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  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Echolalia
  • Treatment
  • Systematic review