Medical researchers define Echolalia as a unique disorder that causes a person to repeat a word or phrase spoken by another individual in a manner similar to a parrot. This echoing is a symptom of acute mental disorders such as Tourette Syndrome and Schizophrenia.
The term “Echolalia” comes from two Greek words – “Echo” meaning “to repeat” and “Laila” which stands for “babble” or “meaningless talk”.
This disorder is closely related to another condition known as Echopraxia, which is characterized by immediate and involuntary imitation movement of other people.
This word is pronounced as “Ik-oh-lay-lee-uh”.
It is a special form of this disorder in which a child alters the tone of certain parts of the words in an effort to adapt them to diverse situations.
Echolalia and Autism
This condition is frequently seen in individuals suffering from Autism. Autism is another unique mental disorder that makes a person self-engrossed and inhibits his or her social communication skills. He or she is found to interact very less with people of similar age-group and only trusts parents. They have severely impaired communication skills and a disinclination to mix with others.
Echolalia is often regarded as an indication of meaningful verbal communication. However, this type of behavior should be carefully inspected in autistic individuals. If this behavior is not found to be just a meaningless repetition of words, it can be regarded as a sign of correct communication.
This condition is often seen to arise after an event of Cerebral Infarction (stroke). It is also believed to arise due to the presence of mental conditions. Some of these conditions, which are regarded as causes of Echolalia, are
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Asperger Syndrome
- Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome
- Tourette Syndrome
Occasionally, it is seen in people suffering from other types of psychiatric conditions. It is also found to be present in individuals with autism and any other developmental disability. The disease can also be found in children who are blind or visually impaired to an extent. However, most children are found to grow out of this behavior a few years later.
When echoing is done in an involuntary manner, it may be regarded as a tic (Habitual twitching in a localized region, particularly in the face).
The main symptoms of Echolalia are
- Meaningless, involuntary repetition of words and phrases just uttered by other individuals
- Involuntary singing of a recent song immediately heard from an individual
Some individuals affected with Asperger Syndome or Autism may use repetition to get more time to process the language.
Types of Echolalia
This condition is of two types. These are
It is a common form of Echolalia where the affected individual responds almost immediately after a phrase or word spoken by a person. He or she repeats the last heard word or words in an exact manner with little or no pause.
Individuals suffering from Autism exhibit a form of this condition known as Delayed Echolalia. People affected with this form of disorder are typically found to repeat lines from favorite movies and television commercials or something that they hear from parents or close ones.
In this type, the echoing is found to occur 30 seconds or more following the words spoken. However, the delayed response may occur hours, days or even months after the original word has been spoken.
Presently, there is no treatment for Echolalia. However, treating the underlying condition can help lessen the cases of this disease. Echolalia is often a symptom of some psychiatric disorder. Treating the causative disorder may naturally help eradicate immediate as well as delayed Echolalia. In almost all cases, this disease is not considered as an individual mental condition but rather as a symptom associated with another disorder.
Autistic people are frequently found to repeat words that are spoken to them or even to other persons. They pick these words at random. This syndrome becomes more pronounced in children once they develop cognitive powers and language skills. Along with echolalia, autistic children may also constantly ask questions and have a perseverant speech. They may also read books aloud and repeat excerpts from movies, videos, television programs and conversational exchanges of other people.
Echolalia in Children
In children, this condition does not become prominent in the initial years of life. Blabbering and imitation of talks and actions of others are done by most toddlers and is not a cause for concern. There is nothing to worry about echolalia in toddlers. It is only later, when the linguistic skills of a child develop, that his or her echoing becomes prominent.
As many as 80% children suffering from blindness or other types of visual impairment are supposed to display this behavior.
Echolalia in Adults
In adults, this condition is found in patients of Schizophrenia, Alzheimer ’s disease and other degenerative disorders of the brain. It may also be found in patients of Tourette Syndrome, Asperger Syndrome, Aphasia, Autism and other developmental disabilities.
For family members, it becomes extremely difficult and annoying to live with an echolalia patient. The key is not to lose patience and treat them with love and care. It is important to remember that Echolalia patients do not continue echoing deliberately or to annoy others. It is better not to interrupt words of such patients and provide them with another word or activity when they are stuck with a word.