Episode 13: My Opinion about How to Stop Your Child from Repeating Words

Have you encountered a child, perhaps it could be your own child who when you say, “how are you?”, they repeat, “how are you?”

This form of copying or repeating words and phrases is referred to as echolalia. Echolalia is when you have a child that is repeating verbatim everything you say to them. It is also known as parroting. Echolalia is mostly but not always observed in children on the autism spectrum disorder.

Echolalia is a very typical part of language development in young children. Children will often echo right at the beginning when they start to learn how to talk. I remember when my two year old was about eighteen months he copied a lot of the things I said to him. But by two years he had stopped like a majority of children do, repeating words and instead started generating some of his own responses.

Why do children echo?

1. Limited vocabulary

2. A form of self-stimulation

3. Rigidity in language skills

– A child could use echolalia to repeat often heard words/ phrases in a somewhat appropriate context like questions and praise items.

How to stop echolalia is dependent on the reason your child is echoing. 

How to stop echolalia/parroting

If your child is copying because they have a limited vocabulary, you can start to explore ways in which you can build their vocabulary.

I have a blog post that can provide you with the knowledge of how you can expand your child’s vocabulary. Please look up this blogpost on the fool-proof tips that can expand your child’s language.

If your child exhibits rigidity in their language skills. If they sort of know and understand the context of what is being said but they don’t know how to maneuver the responses flexibly. You can tackle this practically by asking your child a question like “How are you?” and answering it yourself “Good thank you”. You will see that your child will echo/repeat the last bit of what you said which will be the answer to the question.

Another way to tackle echolalia as a result of language rigidity is to tackle a genre of various questions at a time. So if they are always copying back the question, you could start to tackle one genre of questions like, “What is…?” or “Who is…? questions. For example you can settle on asking “what is questions” and then start to teach responses to that kind of question. Do lots and lots of drills so that your child then starts to see a predictability of the responses to that one kind of question. 

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Final word

Try these tips with your kids that are displaying echolalia.

Do check out our other resources for tips on how to optimise your child’s communication and overall learning outcomes.

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Lorna Muthamia-Ochido

I run a family-centred speech-language therapy clinic, the largest in East and Central Africa. I’ve helped 15,000+ children optimise their communication outcomes (in other words, I make children smarter ☺).

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