Hi everybody. My name is Christa Holmans and I’m the Neurodivergent Rebel, and I am also an autistic adult. However, I didn’t know I was autistic until I was 29 years old, and when I found out it was actually quite a shock. And that’s why, when I found out I went on the internet and started making videos and sharing what I know about autism, because the information really isn’t out there, especially not from an autistic perspective.
So today I’m going to specifically be speaking about autistic speech patterns, specifically echolalia, palilalia, and verbal stimming, because despite being 33. I actually still have all three of these speech patterns. First, I’m going to give you a very medical definition of echolalia, and because these medical definitions are not how I describe myself, I have them written down in my handy dandy, executive functioning, managing notebook.
This just keeps me on track. So echolalia is defined as. Unsolicited, repetitive vocalizations or S of words or sounds made by another person. So they’re echoing another person. This can include quotes from TV, movies, commercials, or songs. I even echo my pets. Some, some other examples would be like, David makes up words a lot, and…
The minute I hear a new word, I instantly repeat it back out loud. I often don’t even realize I’ve done this and I repeat it back to him using the exact tonality that he used in his voice and everything. Almost as if I was mocking him. And a lot of people, when you’re older and you do this to them, they think.
You are mocking them or making fun of them but really it’s because I’ve liked the way that new words sounded and my brain wants to keep it. And so it’s like I instantly repeat it and I, I have. Little control to no control over this if I am in a relaxed state. However, if I am in an environment where I know I need to be very professional or very quiet, generally I am kind of tense because I am a knowing I can’t be myself.
I can control this. But. Like with anything else in autistic masking, it is unpleasant. That’s what it’s like for me with echolalia. There is also palilalia, which is when a person is in voluntarily repeating themselves. When I do this too, and this could be words, phrases, or sentences. Sometimes I get stuck in little speech loops.
Or I’ll say the same word, and it’ll trail and say a few times and I don’t even mean to do it, and I can’t help doing it. That one is harder for me to mind actually. Then like lately, I feel like I have more control over the echolalia than I do the palilalia. Um. Yeah, it can be like when you say, yeah, you could be like, yeah, yay.
And it keeps going and then be like, Oh, I did it. Keep going. Or when you’re trying to get a point across, you don’t realize you’ve said the same sentence like literally three times and everyone around you is like, you said that three times and you have no idea you’ve done it. It’s kind of frustrating.
The other thing is verbal stimming. And I do this too, but this is probably the one I have the most control over out of all three of these things. Verbal stimming. I generally only do when I am relaxed. And that is when an autistic person is soothing themselves by making different sounds or maybe singing songs or saying comforting words or phrases from scripts or potentially.
Other things they’ve picked up that just are comforting to them and so often this is a little bit more intentional and that’s why I say for me it’s something I have the most control over. Although there are times when. It may happen before I even realize it’s happening. Like say if I’m really scared, if something scares me or I become suddenly really distressed and I shut down in on myself, I will instantly, and I don’t realize I’m doing this until after it’s happening.
Start singing a few lines from a Bob Marley song, don’t worry about a thing. And it’s literally just “Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing’s going to be all right.” And it’s just those two over and over again. Don’t worry about a thing. Everything’s going, I get, and I will be in this loop of it, comforting myself and I won’t realize that’s happening.
And that’s pretty instantaneous, but a lot of the verbal stimming I do is when I am excited or joyful, and unfortunately. When I’m happy, I’m really, really, really happy. And it shows, but through my life, people have kind of happiness checked me and told me I was being too much. And so I’ve learned in certain situations to tone that down and act like I’m calmer than I really am.
And that would include suppressing the verbal stimming. Um, but at home when I’m relaxed and it’s just Dave and I. It’s, it’s going constantly, so that, I think I have the most control over out of everything. And for me, that could be like singing little songs and that’s, it’s, it’s much more intentional.
It’s something I do because it’s like, Oh, this is a joyful, this is fun. This is a pleasurable experience to me. So I just want to say about. All three of these different things that we’ve spoken about today. None of these are meaningless behaviors. They all serve a purpose. They all have some kind of hint of meaning in them.
I have different songs these things I sing and say when I am joyful from when I am afraid and when I am uncomfortable. There are feelings in these things. They are a way to express feelings and a way to actually, they can be a way to communicate as well. So as a kid they were way that I would play and I would learn and I would grow.
Like for example, just one more thing with the words repeating words. I remember as a kid, I would say like a word, I would pick a word and I would say it over and over and over again until it didn’t even sound like a word anymore. But I was, you know, that word was going to forever be embedded in my head, that’s for sure.
You know, it’s, it’s just exploring the sounds and a really close up level is what I was doing. a lot of autistic kids are, you know, very curious about a lot of the really close up details and things. And often that can be sounds and the sound of our own voice. So, you know this echolalia is.
It can also be a community, a way autistic kids can learn to communicate because we are copying and mimicking other communications we hear. So, I would say it’s not something that should be just courage, I want to say, because I hear sometimes people talk about discouraging it, but I actually really like my echolalia and I wouldn’t give it up.
The palialia kind of annoys me. I will, I will admit it. And I like my verbal stimming too.
Those are just my thoughts. Alrighty guys, thank you so much for hanging out with me this morning. I hope you have a wonderful week. Bye.
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8 thoughts on “Autistic Speech Patterns – Echolalia, Palilalia, & Verbal Stimming”
Great comment. That has helped me understand that part of my child more than any doctor has, thank you!
So interesting; thank you for sharing. I only found out a few days ago that my repeating of words-new-to-me or ones that are unusual (often medical ones) is a form of echolalia. Who knew?!!
I love the sound and the ‘shape’ of these words. I like to, erm, savour them, I guess: feel them in my mouth while I hear them at one-and-the-same time. I’m a definite sensate seeker, and imagine this is part of that need to self-stimulate.
Also, palilalia is a new word for me, so thank you for that; I tried it out for size the moment I read it above. And verbal stimming is also new to me as a concept. I hum all the time, constantly, usually hearing a song (invariably made up by me, but I suspect a mash-up of a zillion songs or melodies I’ve heard across a whole lifetime), and I harmonise to them. Mostly I’m unaware that I’m doing it – until I become aware (if that makes sense?). An old school friend I met at a reunion (the ADHD part of me loves reunions; the autistic side of me hates them) told me one of the things she remembered most about me was that I was always singing… Weirdly, I had no memory of this (although I have a fan-bloody-tastic long term memory ordinarily) so I guess this corroborates what I say about the humming; it’s something in my subconscious that keeps me self-regulated.
Here’s to greater understanding about autistic speech patterns 🙂
That’s funny, the Bob Marley song is one that I repeat when I’m anxious or in a stressful situation. I als sing parts of No Woman No Cry when I’m sad.
Wow I could have written this. I’m much in the same situation – late 30’s woman, only just recently realizing that I’m autistic. A lot of the “quirks” I just assumed were weird things about me personally are actually common autism things. I had echolalia teased out of me in grade school, for the most part, I thought – I didn’t realize quoting lines from shows or singing song lyrics or humming without being able to stop were also the same thing! My youngest child exhibits palilalia and it’s made me more aware of watching for other things he does that, oh yep I do that too.
May be of interest to know that our brains attune to sounds around us as an ancient strategy. People evolved this skill to easily memorise things like birdsong as they learned detail about the forest.
We don’t just mimic speech while learning from our caregivers, we also acquire ‘ear-worms’ – often scraps of music – that stay in our heads all day!
FWIW I don’t think this only affects neurodiverse people.
Palilalia– THANK YOU! It’s something that happens to me regularly when I’m stressed, and yes, it’s somewhat involuntary and I can suppress it, but at a cognitive (and perception) cost. I used to call it “being locked in”, but I knew that wasn’t quite right. As I’m relatively “High functioning”, I wasn’t diagnosed as being Autistic/Aspergian until my mid-50s. So I had a lot of disguised coping mechanisms. I’ve found that as I age I am more sensitive, or perhaps I’m just acknowledging stressors that I had previously ignored/deprecated.