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Autistic Speech Patterns: Echolalia, Palilalia, Scripting, and Vocal Stimming

I’m creating a new community outside of social media on Substack (where I can have more control over my space), and I hope you’ll join me as a free member (but I also have paid subscriptions if you want access to bonus content).

Though every single Autistic Person is different, many Autistic People make different noises, repeat sounds, or make other vocalizations.

There are three main types of Autistic vocalizations I’m going to be talking about in today’s post: echolalia, palilalia, and vocal stimming.

Despite being 36, I still have all three of these (as well as several other) NeuroDivergent speech patterns. First, I will define each item, then explain more about these experiences from a human perspective, starting with echolalia, the vocalization I experience the most. 

Echolalia is unsolicited, repetitive vocalizations, words, or sounds made by another person (animal or object). Echolalia is a common part of early childhood speech and development, but for many Autistic People, we may continue to echo throughout our adult lives. Echolalia is a big one for me, so I’m very familiar with it.

I echo things I hear around me – whether it is a word or phrase someone has said, quotes from TV, movies, commercials, songs on the radio, elevator dings, computer notifications, or crosswalks. I even echo animals. Someone will say a word or phrase (or I will hear a sound), and I will mimic it, repeated back, echoing in the same tonality and rhythm that I heard.

There is immediate echolalia, where I may immediately repeat the sound without realizing I’m doing it right after hearing it – similar to yelling into a canyon and hearing your echo right away.

There is also delayed echolalia, where I may echo a sound on a delay long after hearing it (because something I encounter in my day-to-day life will remind me of that sound, and I will then echo on a delay (sometimes hours, days, weeks, months, or years later).

50-70 pink brains tiled on a pale blue background white white text that says 'NEURODIVERGENTREBEL.SUBSTACK.COM Autistic Speech Patterns: Echolalia, Palilalia, Scripting, and Vocal Stimming When I hear sounds if they tickle my brain the right way, I will repeat them (often without realizing I am doing it)'

When I hear sounds, if they tickle my brain the right way, I will repeat them (often without realizing I am doing it).

My partner David and I both enjoy making up words, which I love because it triggers my echoes (because I find them comforting). The minute I hear a new word, I instantly repeat it using the exact tonality he used in his voice. 

When I like how something sounds, and my brain wants to keep it, I instantly repeat it (to re-hear the sound and imprint it in my mind). 

As an Autistic adult in a romantic relationship with another Autistic Person, who hangs out with other Autistic People who echo, I love that we echo each other. We echo each other’s noises, words, and sounds, a way for us to bond and share.

I used to be ashamed of my echoes, but they have become something I’m learning to love and appreciate about myself, my Autistic friends, my loved ones, and my romantic partner(s).

This is part of how my partner and I bond in our Autistic relationship (because we understand where these echoes come from). However, if one didn’t know better, one might think I was mocking him. 

I DO worry about this in public with strangers who don’t understand me or my echoes (and that sometimes I have little to no control over my echoes, especially if I am relaxed or stressed). Remember this next time you say something, and someone mimics or echoes back what you have just said, or you hear someone copying a sound they’ve just heard.

Please don’t think, automatically, that someone is making fun of you if they mimic you. The phrase “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is especially true with people like me who echo.It is essential to understand that echolalia is often subconscious, meaning I (and those who echo often) do not have complete control over it.

Though stopping my echoes is difficult, I CAN (with great focus) stop myself from echoing.

If I am in an environment where I know I need to be very professional or quiet, I am generally tense and focused on holding myself together (because I know I can’t be myself).

You can read more of this post (for free) on Substack.

Do you do any of these? I would love to hear about your experience.

In addition to Substack (because I STRONGLY believe educational resources should be affordable) I also offer subscriptions on Patreon, where I always offer a pay-what-you-can subscription (starting at $1 a month – less when you subscribe annually).

2 thoughts on “Autistic Speech Patterns: Echolalia, Palilalia, Scripting, and Vocal Stimming

  1. I love repeating phrases I hear on tv. I don’t even think about it, it just happens. It used to annoy my cousins but my husband has never complained. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Especially as I’ve learned more about Autism and ADHD and stimming and I’ve been able to educate him.

  2. some of my best memories of my times with my autistic friends years ago (mostly at Autreat – the conference of Autism Network International) are from when we would play with sound through echolalia. It was definitely a form of bonding and of play and joy. It also taught me the meaning of vocal sound, and that it could be used for more that “work”; that it was possible to use it for play. … which greatly decreased my antipathy towards the requirement that I use my voice.

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