Fun With Echolalia by Lynn Hudoba • All About Autism Series 2011

This post is generously submitted for the 2011 All About Autism Series ~ by Lynn Hudoba:

ech·o·la·li·a (?k??-l??l?-?) noun: The immediate and involuntary repetition of words or phrases just spoken by others, often a symptom of autism or some types of schizophrenia.

This is the textbook definition. I would take exception to the “just spoken” part, as my daughter is capable of repeating conversations from years ago and scripting out television episodes that she hasn’t watched in ages.  Much of her speech is derivative, and sometimes it feels like a 24/7 pub trivia contest around here as I try to figure out where her lines are from.

The TV cartoon quotes are kinda cute and pretty easy to identify.  Quotes from commercials are wild cards and not always germane…like when she told her Dad this weekend that he had a saggy diaper.

Not unlike typical parents, we live in mortal fear of profanity.  As much as I’d like to, I can’t blame Dora for everything. Then there are the less profane but just as damning lines that everyone within earshot knows came from you, like when my daughter yelled at me in the middle of a crowded park, “You’re making me mental!” Stay classy Mom.

But the best, as in the most useful, form of echolalia is when she is recounting things that happened during her school day.  I get a daily note from school that relates the highlights of their activities and what goals they worked on and my daughter will answer direct questions about her day, but I don’t always get as many details as I would like.

So when I pick up on her saying the name of her teacher or a classmate, I definitely start listening in.  Last week she was cracking herself up as she was “reminiscing” about something funny that happened at school that day.  Her teacher’s name is Kristi. The rest of the kids names have been changed to protect the young and the pantless:


Hi Kristi. Hi Kristi. Hi Kristi. Hi Kristi. We only say hi once, Joey. NO NO NO Alex! Keep your pants on! When Josh gets upset, he loses his points. Matthew says “When’s the guitar?” STOP! We need to walk. Kristi says you cannot hit the teachers.


I learned more in that short little burst than I had from months of teacher’s notes.

Lynn Hudoba is the mother of a beautiful and amazing 6 year old girl who happens to have autism.  She loves to write letters, emails, texts, tweets, memoirs, and blog posts at My Life As An Ungraceful, Unhinged, and Unwilling Draftee Into the Autism Army at

Ahhh, Echolalia….you wouldn’t believe what I’ve heard with echolalia! What have you heard?

All About Autism Giveaway - Week 4

23 Responses to Fun With Echolalia by Lynn Hudoba • All About Autism Series 2011

  1. That sounds exactly like my son! At 6 years old, the majority of his speech is quotes from his favorite shows/movies & the few video/computer games & websites we let him use (all educational, all, we believe, helpful to his development). He’s particularly drawn to TV commercial lines. Sometimes it’s downright funny and makes us giggle. The small comforts are such a blessing as we work and wait for the day when he can talk to us beyond simple requests (such as for a snack, or help with something – oh, what a joy that was for us when he was finally able to ask for those things!), be able to tell us about his day ay school or what he’s thinking about without prompts or carefully constructed questions.

    • I hear that eventually the scripting becomes more and more functional until only we will know that it’s lines from TV shows, commercials, etc. Still waiting for that day…in the meantime, we gotta laugh!

  2. Thanks for this post. My son is echolalic and echopraxic. You have to be very careful of what you do and say around him.

  3. This reminds me of a time that I asked my son something and he retorted with some line from a cartoon. He said something to this effect, “If you must really know, then all I have to day is, whatever floats you boat, Frank!” It was hilarious because it totally suited the situation as do most of his crazy commentaries that come from cartoons or movies.

  4. hahaha I had no idea there was an actual term for this! Here’s one from the archives, when my son was 2 “You don’t qualify for Medicare? No problem! We work with your insurance company to get a power chair at little or no cost to you”. These days (5 yrs later) it’s “Mom, do you want an O Cedar Pro Mist? Do you think you would want the machine washable microfiber pads or the disposables?” I tell ya, it came in handy a few months ago when little brother barfed on his pillow pet and I was informed by Mr. Infomercial that pillow pets are machine washable! :) Excellent!

  5. One day when my son’s therapist said to herself quietly “what time is it?”, he pulled out a line from Bubble Guppies that occurs after the big fish asks the same question: “It’s time for lunch!”. He also quotes the sponsor ads from PBS.

  6. As usual, Lynn nails it!

    When I ask Billy, “What did you do today at school?” and he answers, “I played with toys,” that may or may not be true. Well, he probably DID play with toys, but it’s a stock answer.


  7. I once wrote “My Tub Runneth Over” about the time my son told me, “I’m going to call the police and they’ll take you away!” Then I wrote “The Pros & Cons of Educational DVDS” as he became obsessed with the NEST Entertainment history cartoons we found at the library. Now he has the librarians wrapped around his finger, and they let him check out 6 videos instead of the stated 5! We actually had to put a moratorium on Christopher Columbus, of all things! In there someone calls him a nicompoop & a peabrain. You can imagine what my boys think they said… A friend of mine just wrote about the time they were in public and her daughter said, “My mom just got out of prison.”

    Thanks for sharing your stories, everyone!

  8. I can so relate to this! My son remembers everything he has ever seen on TV and repeats it often. I’m constantly trying to figure out where he got a particular quote. I do wish he’d use it to give me more info about his day though. That’s some priceless information you got there!

  9. Oh man, I remember one time Lynn saying to me that I was gonna miss Diego lines. That was about 6 months ago and I realize she was right! Jaylen has had much less echolalia lately and I do miss it. No more “Compsagnutus problems” randomly. Miss you Dino Dan.

  10. Haha! Great post Lynn (through Gina!). The echolalia can be very informative. I get similar reports from my son about pre-k and therapy. I am a little nervous about a South Park free game on my iPhone that my son loves. It swears when the characters lose. Luckily, he is obsessed with noises the characters make and not their language… yet.

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