Echolalia – echoing what you or others say
Echolalia is the repetition (echoing) of words or phrases spoken by others.
It can be immediate (immediately repeating what was just said, or saying the last word of someone else’s sentence together with them) or delayed (repeating something heard earlier). The words, sounds and phrases one repeats are called echoes.
Echolalia is part of how babies learn language and communication, so as with many other neurodivergent traits, what’s neurodivergent about them is not the presence but the frequency and the intensity. Many autistic adults continue to echo throughout their lives.
Echolalia can confirm engagement in communication, i.e. “I’m listening, I hear you, I get what you’re saying”.
Sometimes echolalia serves a stimming purpose, because the phrase or word had a pleasing cadence, rhythm or funny meaning, and it feels nice to repeat it in the same voice or accent. Punch lines for jokes or catchphrases from comedies are great echoes and can foster connection and become an in-joke between individuals.
The repetition is involuntary and unsolicited, and not a conscious decision. This mimicry is often misinterpreted as mocking or making fun of others, and it is possible to stop oneself from echoing, but this masking takes a lot of effort.
Palilalia – repeating your own words or phrases
Palilalia is the repetition of one’s own words or phrases.
Individuals with palilalia may repeat what they just said – either whole words and phrases or just bits of syllables. It can sound a bit like stuttering, but it’s not related to struggling to get words out.
This repetition is mostly involuntary and may occur due to difficulties with speech planning or self-regulation, and can occur more frequently when the person is overwhelmed or tired.
Scripting – planning what you’ll say
Scripting involves using planned, pre-learned or memorized language, either scripted beforehand, or using entire speech bits from movies, books, or personal experiences.
Scripting is aptly named, it literally means to write scripts (whole speeches, sentences or just bullet points) to navigate social situations or express emotions and have a sense of comfort or predictability in stressful situations. Scripting can involve planning out variations of conversations, and rehearse what you’ll say if they ask X or Y.
You don’t have to write anything down, it’s scripting even if you just run through variations of what you’ll say in your head.
Scripting is very useful for difficult phone calls or interviews when you’re anxious that your mind will be blank and you forget what you wanted to say.
Verbal stims – using words to stim
Verbal stims are a part of stimming, meaning self-stimulatory behaviours. Verbal stims are repetitive vocal sounds, especially whole phrases or words.
These can include humming, making specific sounds, or producing rhythmic patterns with the voice, repeating one favourite line from a song, a punchline of a joke, a funny saying, a satisfying turn of words, a melodic accent or any bit of language that gives you joy or feels nice to say.
Verbal stims can serve as a way to self-regulate, manage sensory input, or express emotions.
When you stim with music – singing, repeating the same line, listening to the same song over and over again, or having an earworm for stimmy reasons – it’s called rhythmic stimming.1
Vocal stims – using sounds to stim
Vocal stims are similar to verbal stims but involve non-word vocalizations, such as grunting, squealing, beatboxing, clicking with your tongue, making animal noises or making other sounds without specific meaning. Vocal stims can be a way for individuals to release energy, cope with sensory overload, and also sometimes communicate non-verbally.« Back to the Glossary