I have recently re-started reading ‘academic’ literature and other individual’s personal blogs about Autism.  I had forgotten how comforting this is and also how I find that others writing will trigger a flow of my own.  I just read about echolalia (repetition of speech).  Echolalia is one of those rather academic sounding terms and one which I was quite sure did not apply to myself.  To my astonishment I found myself saying out loud “I do that!” and I do.  Well everyone does, but autistic people do it to a greater degree and often for differing reasons than your average NT.

My friend and autistic confidant was just as astonished that I had been surprised.  Almost weekly I ask her to ‘hold on a minute’ while I write down her thoughts and advice word for word.  If I don’t write them down as she speaks I wont remember them at all.  I may remember the overall jist of the conversation , such as ‘don’t feel guilty for feeling this way’, but I wont be able to use the discussion in a social context, even one to one with another person, my mind will go totally blank, I can remember that I have good reasons for sticking up for myself in a given situation, for example, but I cannot formulate a sentence to do that when I come to the situation.  I experience muteness (another autistic thing I thought I didn’t do!).  If I have written something down word for word and gone over it, then I have a much better chance of being able to formulate a sentence relaying my view or feelings.  Until now I have thought that this is ‘cheating’ because I am repeating my friends words.  Now I realise that my friend is putting into words what I am struggling to say for myself and that repeating (echolalia) her word for word is not pretending, or cheating, or ‘using’ her in any way, it is merely a tool to help me express myself.

I realise that the battering ram of high school and university’s pleas for ‘no plagiarism’ had the result of leaving me with an intense guilt and shame at using echolalia as a coping mechanism.  Whereas actually I should be applauding my ingenuity at using echolalia so effectively to support my day to day life.  There is nothing to be ashamed of, but it feels like there is.


4 thoughts on “Echolalia

  1. Now you put it like this, I realise I do a similar thing in some situations: I read stuff that says exactly what I want to say, but then feel guilty when I try to explain why it says what I want to say, because I feel I am stealing the other person’s views, even if I am just using their (attributed) words to illustrate my own (unique) commentary!!


  2. I’ve got a feeling you may have misinterpreted the nature of echolalia – the definition of it seems to be “meaningless repetition”. If you know why you’re using the repetition is it something else? NTs do this all the time, repeating phrases rather than being “original”. I cringe if I use a tacky cliché. I feel this just causes me to worry too much and communication might be easier if I used templates. There is also the thing that NT intuition is firing off suitable phrases without the mental effort that we have to spend as autistic people.


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