Forget What You Learned about Echolalia: The Benefits of Repetitive Speech

I remember as a little girl in the early 70’s being told to stop “om-ing” and deep-throat stimming. While the vibrations were extremely soothing to my over-taxed sensory system, it apparently did not have the same effect on other people.

Likewise, I processed my thoughts by repeating them in my conversations. In high school I was informed that I said “the same thing over and over again.” And then I was politely asked to stop.

You probably have your own stories about how your voice was silenced.

The Benefits of Echoing

When used deliberately, repetitive sounds, words or statements not only sound and feel great. They can help you rewire the brain to think differently and lower heightened physical responses of the body to shift to a more peaceful, relaxed and happy state regardless of your life circumstances.

We didn’t make that up. Scientists have studied how the brain responds to mantras and they have found some evidence that improved immune response, increased concentration and decreased worry are just a few of the many benefits of focusing your concentration on a single pointed word or phrase.

Repetitive Language is a Universal Tool

Repetitive language also known as mantras in many cultures are sounds, words or simple phrases you repeat to yourself to help deal with stressful, painful, frightening or otherwise difficult circumstances in a productive and healthy way. Mantras can also be used to help you process and internalize difficult concepts or behaviors that you would like to change.

Unfortunately, instead of helping us to refine this useful skill,  people often interpret verbal repetition in autistics as a problem and discourage it because they do not understand the benefits associated with this repetitive speech. There are even still some therapists who attempt to eliminate echoing in children and refer to it as “non-functional” speech.

We are here today to encourage you to unlearn those messages about repetitive language being “non-functional” and help you get back in touch with your instinct which leads you to say words and phrases or sounds over and over again for very good –  very functional reasons.

Bring Back Your Old Stims

  1. Think back to those times that you have made vocal stims or repeated words or phrases that you stopped doing because other people told you to.
  2. Now ask yourself if it makes sense to bring any of those back into your routine.
  3. Give them a try today.

In my case, I tried out “om-ing” and deep-throat stimming the other night when everyone else was asleep and it helped ease that low grade hypersensitive feeling on my skin and the aching in my joints and just felt really relaxing. In hindsight, if I’d been allowed to do this, it would have made my childhood a lot more tolerable.  As an adult, I can made my own rules for what works for me and I challenge you to do the same.

Next time. . .

we talk about how to refine your repetitive speech skills instead of squashing them.

Until then . . .

share what repetitive sounds or words have helped you and check out VoxVisual’s post on exercise. We recommend using both exercise and verbal stimming as helpful ways to regulate the sensory system.


##ActuallyAutistic#Asperger's#Aspie#autism#autism spectrum#autistic#coping strategies#functional language#overstimulation#pain#sensitivities#stimming#stims tactile defensiveness#stress#stress management#ToniBoucher


  1. HELEN NEEDHAM - February 19, 2017 @ 12:27 pm

    I have just returned from skiing when I ended up repeating words up, up, up & down, down, down to help me get down the steeps parts of the slope. The words became my mantra as I was faced with challenging situations which stretched me to my limits.

    My son has certain sounds that he repeats, and will often repeat phrases when he has something on his mind. Had always thought that this was due to him being “stuck on a thought”, rather than him finding comfort from it.

    Will be looking at this from a different point of view now. #spectrumSunday

    • Toni Boucher - February 20, 2017 @ 8:28 am

      Thanks for sharing your own great examples! Glad this offered a different way to look at things.

  2. Rachel George - February 19, 2017 @ 3:47 pm

    My son was not expected to talk. I would spend days singing just one sound to a repetitive tune and eventually he made sounds. By the age of 4 he had 4 words. more followed slowly and his speech was noted as being echolalic but I didn’t see it as a problem, I saw it as part of his development. Now 10 it is still hard going but it is coming together. #spectrumsunday

    • Toni Boucher - February 20, 2017 @ 8:32 am

      What I love about your approach is that you combined song with a simple sound for starters. It’s a great tip for others to combine melody and simple sounds. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Tiffany Dozier - February 23, 2017 @ 9:48 am

    It’s interesting. When I hear the word “mantra,” I think of yoga, and folded legs, people relaxing into yoga mats. Stress-free. When I think of my 3 sons'(all autistic) repetitive questioning, singing of consonants and vowels, and repeated statements, it’s stressful. However, that’s my experience and not theirs. If their mantras include singing and repeated statements, and it is their calming mantra, I will have to find a balance between their bringing peace to themselves, my fraying nerves and find peace for myself.

    • admin - February 23, 2017 @ 9:53 am

      Thanks for writing 🙂 I think we all have techniques that help us soothe our frayed nerves. You may find something that works for you, so you can all find some relief. Thanks again for writing.

  4. Lynne (Raising my Autistic son) - February 25, 2017 @ 2:05 pm

    My son had a tendency to repeat some phrases again, more quietly and under his breath. it’s his quiet little echo and we just accept it…it doesnt interfere with the conversation and does no harm. He also makes a kind of little purring sound when he reads the news websites – he probably needs to calm himself down. #spectrumsunday

    • admin - February 25, 2017 @ 7:50 pm

      Oh, I’m sure he can use some calming influences when reading the news! That absolutely makes sense.

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