Support your autistic child’s communication by learning the stages of Gestalt Language Processing
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Support your autistic child’s communication by learning the stages of Gestalt Language Processing

If your child is using echolalia and/or has a diagnosis of autism, then your child’s way of processing language is most likely different to the classic way children typically learn language. We call this process Natural Language Acquisition or Gestalt Language Processing.

Speech Therpaist in London
Step by Step guide to Gestalt Learning

Let’s explore the following stages of Gestalt Processing:

Stage 1: communicative use of whole language gestalts

(e.g., “let’s get out of here”)

Children and young people in this stage use echolalia. They need to hear more gestalts or scripts. So, your job is to model, model, model and to use functional language that your child can repeat back.

Stage 2: mitigated into chunks and re-combining these chunks

(e.g., “let’s get” + “some more”) and (e.g., “let’s get” + “out of here”)

This is when you take parts of gestalts or phrases and then combine it with other parts.

Stage 3: further mitigation (single words recombining words, formulating two-word phrases)

(e.g., “get…more”)

They are going beyond their gestalts. Furthermore, they may begin to label different objects.

Stage 4: formulating first sentences

(e.g., “let’s get more toys”)

You may see more grammatical errors during this phase as they are creating unique sentences. Please don’t worry about this, it means they are playing and experimenting with language. As communication partners, you could model the correct form of the sentence.

Stages 5 & 6: formulating more complex sentences

(e.g., “how long do you want to play inside for?”)

You can see that language learning is a process, that is trialled and tested, used in different contexts for children to be able to learn and use language appropriately.

My next blog will give you activities ideas and how you might use them specifically with a Gestalt Language Processor.

Remember early intervention is vital. So, if you have any concerns, please seek the advice of a Speech and Language Therapist.

Contact me, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist Sonja here.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Explore how to improve communication skills for a Gestalt Language Processor
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Explore how to improve communication skills for a Gestalt Language Processor

Let’s break it down into steps to make these complicated words easier to understand. Once you have a deeper understanding, you will then be able to support your child or young person develop their communication skills in the best way as a Gestalt Language Processor. Remember not every child will be a Gestalt Language Processor; if your child uses echolalia and/or has a diagnosis of autism then your child’s way of processing language is most likely different to the classic way children typically learn language.

Let’s start with understanding what each of these words “Gestalt Language Processors” mean.

Gestalt: “the way a thing has been placed or put together”

Language: “a system of human communication”

Processors: “responds to and processes basic instruction”

So, let’s put those meanings together. “Gestalt Language Processors are children who process early language in strings of sounds or chunks.” They tend not to process single words.

It is important to understand this way of processing communication because between 75-90% of children with Autistic Spectrum Conditions process language in this way (Blanc, 2012). We know that it’s important for young people to have their voice heard and to be able to express themselves. So, it’s vital that they move from echolalia to self-generated communication to be able to do this. This means that our children’s communication partners play a vital role in supporting their child’s language. We can support our children by modelling phrases until the child has learnt the process themselves.

Speech Therpaist in London

Let’s explore an example together

X (who is a gestalt language processor) and his family love to feed the ducks in their spare time; this is an activity that takes place regularly. Let’s look at how you, as the adults, could support X in his communication. Look at the phrases that are used. They are meaningful to the activity with repetition used throughout.

Top tip: You could think of an activity you and your child or young person take part in on a regular basis and brainstorm some key phrases that you could use.

Need a boost in confidence to support your child’s gestalt language processing?

Contact me.


Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

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What Is Echolalia And Does It Have A Function? How Can Speech Therapy Help With Echolalia?
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What Is Echolalia And Does It Have A Function? How Can Speech Therapy Help With Echolalia?

What Is Echolalia And Does It Have A Function? How Can Speech Therapy Help With Echolalia?

Echolalia is a term used when assessing or treating children with Autism. The term refers to the repetition or echoing of utterances, either our own or others’. It can also be echoing phrases heard on television, advertising jingles or catchy repeat phrases used in tv programmes or nursery rhymes and songs. Whilst we all use echolalia occasionally and it can be observed in typically developing children, we tend not to see/hear it beyond the age of 2.5 years old. Children with ASD, however, do use echolalia often into late childhood.

There are generally two types of Echolalia:

Immediate echolalia

Here the repeated phrases or words are produced immediately after someone has spoken the original words or within two conversational turns of the original utterance.

Delayed echolalia

The repeat echoing of the original utterance occurs sometime later, more than two conversational turns or with a much longer time delay. Due to the delay it can be hard to interpret the meaning of the echolalic utterance as it may refer to something that happened long ago and in a different context to the originally utterance.

(Stiegler, 2015, Fay 1967, Blanc 2014)

There are other unconventional speech behaviours which include:

  • Perseveration of Speech – persistent repetition of speech
  • Repetitive questioning – persisting even though answers were given
  • Vocalisations such as: humming, whistling, clicking, squealing etc.

Much research has gone into the meaning and treatment of Echolalia and the following list consists of possible functions that have been identified:

  • Information sharing
  • Responding to answers
  • Labelling
  • Drawing attention to self
  • Protesting
  • Requesting
  • Giving instructions
  • Self-regulation, calming

(Stiegler 2015, Prizant 1983)

Echolalia does have a function and is part of the Gestalt Learning Process (where longer units of speech are memorised and then used as a whole without the individual words being meaningful).

As a Speech and Language Therapist I promote sound and proven Intervention based on the Hanen Programme which helps provide a highly facilitative Interaction Style and I will tell you a bit more in my next blog how the “More Than Words” approach can help children with echolalia move through their Gestalt Learning into more analytic processing of language, grammar and meaning.


Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.