Echolalia is the repetition of words, sounds or phrases that have been uttered by someone else, hence we are echoing them. These repetitions can be taken from people we know, the TV, radio, social media etc and can still be in use months, or even years, after hearing them.

From what I have seen so far in my research, echolalia gets a bad press. I would say that more than half of the sites I’ve visited offer ways to STOP echolalia, despite its functions being numerous – from communication to comprehension and comfort.

As ever, this is a complex area, so I’m going to stick with the use of echolalia for autistic people as a valuable form of stim – stimulatory behaviour – for many children and adults. It feels and sounds soothing and enjoyable to that person, even if it does irritate some other people to hear the same sound or phrase over and over and over. It also makes a lot of people uncomfortable in public, and here we have the main reason that I suspect so many sites offer to ‘cure’ it!

Back to the autistic person using echolalia as a stim, a comfort, an anxiety reliever, a play thing! On balance, which is of greater importance here: the discomfort of passing strangers, or its role for many as an unconscious coping strategy in an overwhelmingly difficult world?