Perseveration (pronounced: per•sev•er•a•tion) is the repetition of a particular response such as a word, phrase, ritual, or gesture (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition). An example of this would be if a child fears the vacuum and continually asks if it is put away. Another example, which I see regularly is an apparent “obsession” with cars and/or trains, specifically with television/movies and/or the actual toy. Perhaps a child will ONLY play with his train set and when he plays with it he is uninterested in anything else, playing with it for hours on end.
Immediate echolalia is just that, immediate. For example, if I say “do you want to play with cars?” An immediate echolalic response would be, “do you want to play with cars?” Rather than answering the question, the child simply “echos” the question. Is is possible this response is due to lack of understanding, delayed processing, and/or an inability to formulate an appropriate response.
Delayed echolalia… yep you guessed it… is delayed repetition of a word or phrase. Many times this is evident in the repetition of television commercials, movie lines, and/or parental reprimands. A couple of common examples are reciting entire scenes from Cars (the movie) or blurting out “you better not” randomly and/or inappropriately.
Perseveration and echolalia are common among children and adults with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis; however, many children and adults have these symptoms and are not on the spectrum.
Some perseverations are tolerable while others should be addressed by an occupational and/or speech-language pathologist. Typically, I address them when they are socially inappropriate and/or they are impeding the child’s developmental progress. Echolalia can be very beneficial. In fact, it is a developmental stage almost all children use to learn vocabulary and communication. The identification of disordered echolalia is important because we do not want to impede the application of useful echolalia. Some echolalia must be harnessed in treatment, while other echolalia is eliminated or modified.
If you have concerns about perseveratory behaviors or echolalic speech, talk to your speech-language pathologist and/or occupational therapist today.
- Amy Grant, M.S., CCC-SLP