Autistic Quirks: Echolalia and Vocal stimming

Here’s another post to add to the mini series ‘Autistic Quirks’. This one is going to be about echolalia and vocal stimming. A quick definition before I go on – Echolalia is the repetition of phrases, words or parts of words. It is common more in autistic children but I still find myself doing this as a coping mechanism.

I want to try and explain why echolalia is important and is not something that should be discouraged. So the easiest way to do that is with an example. So I’m at work and my brain has worked particularly hard in a lesson, I’ve had to explain a lot to a student(s) and I’m a little overload. So when I go to the toilet I repeat the phrase ‘oh my goodness, oh my goodness’ a few times. Now I do it in a particular voice but I can’t explain it and I know it’s from a tv show or film but I can’t at all remember what one. It’s something that relaxes me and I find comforting but also it helps me understand what I’m feeling – overwhelmed – and to stop me from feeling like that. It’s like it lets the excess energy I have in me because I’ve had too much inputted.

I have a few different phrases that I will repeat another one is ‘I cannot believe it’ in an Indian accent, not particular proud of it but it just comes out sometimes. The thing is the text in the phrase doesn’t always match how I feel most times when I say ‘I cannot believe it’ I am not shocked. The reason I say that phrase is because I enjoy the way it feels when I say it. It brings me a sort of pleasure aspect. Which brings in the link of vocal stimming. I see echolalia as a form of vocal stimming.

Vocal stimming is making noises, sounds or phrases with your mouth. Stimming is usually associated with physical, I.e. Spinning around, rocking, etc. However, I would stress that you can stim vocally too. I make a variety of different sounds in certain situations, one sound I make is like a clicking sound that comes from pushing air out while I have my tongue under my teeth on one of the side of my mouth. If I’m tired I usually make this sound. But if I’m happy I might make a different sound usually a ‘whoosh’ type sound or blowing air like a whistle but I can’t whistle.

It says in this article ( that I found when I was looking for a definition of echolalia that children use it to communicate and reinforce understanding. I’d argue when adults do it they are doing a similar thing. They are processing what you are saying and in order to do that they repeat it again for themselves and not solely relying on auditory processing. Though the most important thing about echolalia is that it allows autistics to play with language and also output the overstimulation they input. It is as essential as stimming and one of my few first posts was about stimming ( It is essential to an autistic’s emotional health. So I would never dissuade someone from using echolalia or vocal stimming for the sake of ‘normalising’ them. Someone who uses echolalia can be entertaining when the phrase just fits perfectly creating a great comedy moment. What a great autistic quirk!

Thanks for reading. Hope you liked it. Peace out!

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