Echolalia means repeating things that you have heard before.
For example, you might repeat lines from your favorite movie out loud.

Non-autistic people also say things from movies, books, or TV shows.
But autistic people use echolalia a lot more.
Autistic people use echolalia to communicate.
We use it when making new sentences is hard.

There are different kinds of echolalia.
Some autistic people remember sentences that we hear.
Then, we use them later.
Here’s an example:

Bob’s sister doesn’t want to do the dishes.
She says “the dishwasher is broken.”
Later, Bob doesn’t want to do his homework.
He remembers what his sister said.
He says, “the dishwasher is broken.”

Bob is using echolalia.
He is saying that he doesn’t want to do something.
He isn’t actually talking about the dishwasher.
This can be hard for non-autistic people to understand.

Sometimes, we use echolalia in other ways.
We can learn how to put together parts of different sentences.
For example:

Bob wants to stay home. His mom wants to go out.
Bob’s mom says “get in the car.”
Bob remembers when his sister said “the dishwasher is broken.”
He puts the sentences together.
He says “the car is broken.”
He is saying that he wants to stay home.

Another kind of echolalia happens faster.
We might repeat things right after we hear them.
Sometimes, this can be a problem.
For example:

Juanita’s mom says, “Do you want juice or water?”
Juanita says “or water.”
But Juanita actually wanted juice.
She could only say the last thing she heard.
So she said “water” when she didn’t mean to.

Some autistic people also use echolalia to stim.
We like the way certain things sound.
So we say them over and over again.
Sometimes, we might not be able to stop saying something.
We might not want you to pay attention to us when this happens.
If you think this is happening, just ask us.