Why Do Autistic People Repeat Words & Phrases? What’s Echolalia? – An Autistic Perspective



Why Do Autistic People Repeat Words & Phrases? What’s Echolalia?— Neurodivergent Rebel

Released on YouTube July 4, 2018

Transcript/Subtitles by: @SeekingSara174 (An Autistic’s Journey Toward Self-Discovery), https://seekingsara174.wordpress.com/


(intro music with snaps and mellow beat)

[Title screen reading: Neurodivergent Rebel: Rebelling against a culture that values assimilation over individuality.]

(in background) Really annoying. Really annoying. (presses hair down) I’ll just—I’ll see if it stays out of the way. It’s driving me blehhhhh. It’s just like, “Stoppppp. Stop, hair, stop!” (chuckles to self)

So… (clears throat) Ugh, my voice is cracking!

Since I did my video where I read from the diagnostic criteria of—about autism, people have had some questions regarding some of the things mentioned in that video and some of the medical terminology and so I thought maybe… it could be…useful if I go through some of these common medical terms that people will hear over and over and just break them down into plain English, uh as best I can just based on my own personal experience and what these things, you know, can look like for me. And just my experience with it. I’m not a doctor. Not a doctor! (chuckles)

The first—the first— And so, if you think this is a good idea or you wanna see me do more of these, give me a thumbs up so I’ll know and I might do more of these, but the first one that we’re gonna try talking about is echolalia because I did mention this in the video where I was talking about the medical terminology for autism.

And I will first explain what this is for me. So, often…someone will say something to me or I will hear something and I will repeat it back. Most of the time, I will repeat it back with the same rhythm and tonality that I heard this in… So it can be a spoken word or two; it can be a whole sentence; it can be a sound that I like sometimes.

Uh…and (chuckles) the problem sometimes is people think I’m mocking them. And there’re usually two reasons I’ll actually do this so I think it’s a good thing to explain so people know that I’m not mocking you—nobody! I’m not mocking anyone and I don’t think anyone is trying to mock anyone else when they do this. (laughs) So, I’ll unpack the misunderstanding there.

The first reason a lot of times—and this is more when I’m relaxed—is because I like the sound I’ve just heard or the way someone has said a word. It just struck me in a way that was pleasurable and I wanna hear it again because when I am repeating something back, it’s replaying it in my mind like a tape recorder. It’s the same thing when I sing songs out loud off-key. I’m replaying it back in my mind. So…if I am not doing this because I need more time to process information or if I’m not doing this to try and make sense of something I’ve just heard, I’m likely doing this for the pleasure of it. (laughs) That sounds weird, but it’s like… It’s often I really love the way someone said something or I really liked that sound. (laughs) So, you should be, you know—it should be—it should be *flattering*. It’s not mocking…if that makes sense.

And then the other thing is, you know, for communication. It’s a communication…tool, I guess for me? I’m gonna try and explain that too. Like I was saying, sometimes if I repeat back a whole sentence it’s giving me time to like really think through what was said and formulate my response.

Also to check for understanding and make sure I’ve heard correctly. Sometimes, for whatever reason, when someone’s talking to me, *especially* if it’s in a really loud or busy place I have a hard time making out all of the words that are coming at me and I…am pretty good with context clues, but sometimes I will just hear something and it will have the completely wrong word or there will just be words missing and I just have to make sense of it. And if it doesn’t quickly make sense based on the rest of the conversation, I may repeat the sentence back and usually people will correct you if you repeat them back incorrectly. And it’s a good way to check for understanding or check that you heard someone correctly.

So there’s that. (whispers to self) What else? (sound of palms rubbing together) but…uh…yeah. Uh… Let me think lemme think lemme think….

But, I mean, just how this places in to my daily life and my everyday life is, you know, when I’m relaxed and with people I’m close to—I’ve got, you know, a few close friends and family—I… typically just randomly use song—sounds and…in conversations, make funny noises, and I will burst into song (laughs)

[appearing on screen: “I often quote movie clips and other catchy one or two-word phrases.”]

I sing song things a *lot*. I make up little songs constantly. It’s just all these little—little things that are just natural parts of my communication when I just relax and am myself…that’ve just always kind of been part of me. I can turn it all off…sometimes. I can’t—no, I can turn it off. I can turn it off because I turn it off when I go to work. You know, there’s my home self and my work self and when I was in school there was my school self and and my home self. And work “me” is… (shrugs) very professional and different (laughs) than home “me”. And it’s not even like—I don’t know. It’s not even conscious at this point; it’s just like a switch.

But it’s just tiring sometimes not just being yourself. And I am—I don’t know—I think I can be kind of fun and silly and goofy and I really enjoy these things. And you know… Once someone said to me—before I was diagnosed—they said, “You just like the sound of your own voice, don’t you?” And I really didn’t know like what to make of that and I was kind of off-put by that observation back then…and now—like thinking back on everything, and really paying attention to myself, and what I’m doing…and…— I am more inclined to agree, yeah!

I kind of…like the sound of my own voice, but not in the way I think they intended.

(background music begins to play)

You know, I like—I guess I’m seek—I seek sounds. I like sounds; I like music. And it’s just something that I seek and I can stimulate my senses with my own voice by making funny sounds and funny voices and I enjoy the heck out of it. (shrugs and claps) And…that’s just my…very… plain English personal experience, uh explanation, of echolalia.

So yeah, like I said: give me a thumbs up and share this video if you think this is helpful at all. Let me know your experiences with this if you do this in the comments. I’d love to hear about it and—like I said—if we like this I’ll do more. I’ll do more of ‘em. So, anyway, guys, I will talk to you next week! Bye! (chuckles)

[appearing on screen: “Subscribe for new videos EVERY Wednesday!!!”]


Music – Bensound.com

6 thoughts on “Why Do Autistic People Repeat Words & Phrases? What’s Echolalia? – An Autistic Perspective

  1. WordPress just crashed on me and I lost a long comment, so briefly: thanks for the interesting videos (yours and Amethyst’s, in the comments). My son (ASD diagnosed) repeats environmental sounds (immediately) and extended transport announcements (delayed). I (no diagnosis) sometimes (immediately) repeat phrases with odd intonation; stock phrases also slip out all the time when I’m alone (or think I am!), e.g. ‘Basically, it’s just a case of’. (I’ll say that many times every day, often without completing it, but hadn’t thought of it as possible delayed echolalia before now. Maybe everyone does that: I don’t know.)

  2. Oh, I do this a lot! I hum, make noises, say “meow” (softly, which has got me some very odd looks), or quote things if something someone says reminds me of a show/film/song I love!

  3. I am really unsure of why I repeat things. Often I repeat myself after an exchange is done and I moved on. I’ll even repeat it several times. I’ve noticed that by the third or fourth time that I’ve changed the words and emphasis. I’ve wondered about it being a way to make it stick in my memory, but as I make changes it’s not effective for that. hmmm… Interesting–Thanks!

  4. My son tends to repeat the end of sentences when he is excited or distracted. It’s kind of his signature move, and I like it. It’s just so him!

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