If you have been following the trend in treatment for Echolalia you may have heard the term “Gestalt Language Processor”. These children acquire language in chunks, phrases, or meaningful sounds and then will over time mitigate that into new speech.
For example, a child might have picked up “To Infinity and Beyond” from Toy Story and then start speaking that direct line with the same intonation throughout the day. Even if they had no words before or many words. Using a non-behavior (Non-ABA) noncompliance approach SLPs trained in this approach, work on mitigating the phrases the child is speaking over time to help them develop “meaningful speech”. We might break up the Toy Story example by modeling something slightly different like, “beyond the way” or something like that. There are various stages,1-6 that the child falls into which we can identify based on a language sample. This will help us plan our treatment approach.
The tricky part is we as SLPs struggle with the “extinction” of language for these Gestalt Language Processors. We believe meaningful speech, whether you want to call it babbling, gestalts, or echolalia, is the foundation of language for many of these children. Unfortunately, we have seen MANY kids stop speaking because their gestalts were not honored, shut down, or ignored. This pains us as we have also seen the other side of language development for these Gestalt Language Processors. What we have found in our practice and what we believe in the research is that the earlier these gestalts are honored, analyzed, and acknowledged the better outcome we see for two-way communication in the children we work with.