DS is turning into a "parrot" - should I be worried? — The Bump
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DS is turning into a "parrot" - should I be worried?

I don't even read 'normal' speech development articles anymore so I don't know if this is 'normal' or not.  DS has really upped his verbal imitation - to the point that I'm now almost a little wary of what we say around him.  

Of course, the "dark" side of this is that now I'm wondering just how much imitation is considered normal or is there any pattern I should be looking for?  Echolalia (sp?) is of course what I'm afraid of.  I know it's normal to some extent but you know how we are - we have to over-analyze everything. 

He picked "see you" I think from hearing us and now says "see you" every time he says bye or he'll repeat the last word of a sentence you just said to him.  I think I said "give it here" and he replied by saying "here".  

I don't know - am I seeing problems where there aren't any?  


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Re: DS is turning into a "parrot" - should I be worried?

  • FWIW, my son doesn't have ASD but started expanding his speech with words and phrases "parroted" and also would repeat what we had said if he didn't understand what we were saying. This was also the beginning of his speech really taking off. He is still behind and is scheduled to start ST next week, but probably has 200 words, likes to label objects "that's the light, that's the fan" and is starting to speak in sentences more often. I would keep an eye on it and maybe mention it to his ST but as long as he keeps making progress I think it is a normal way of learning language. My DS stands at the top of the staircase and shouts "hey babe" which he learned from me and DH.
  • My ds who is 2.5 (asd) is doing the same thing. He does see a speech therapist and she hasn't mentioned it being a problem. He just recently had a language explosion so that may be part of it. I know what you mean about seeing problems when there aren't any. 

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  • My kids each had language explosions around the same age that your DS is now. DS2 REALLY kicked up his language and he is doing a ton of mimicing right now. It has been fantastic to see him picking up more words and starting to put words together for 2-4 word sentences now. He will be 2.5yr old in a couple of weeks.
  • How does he repeat the words? Is he truly "parroting" them or is he repeating them so he remembers it? My DS has started asking what/where/who questions (no whys yet) and he'll repeat what I say (ie. that's an eggplant - "egg pwant") like he's trying to memorize it. I asked his ST about this and she felt he's processing the new words and needs to repeat them to get them down pat.


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  • I would personally ask your child's speech therapist.  There is a big difference between echolalia and normal imitation or repeating.  

    Before my son started speech therapy almost all of his speech was echolalia, he could communicate sort of effectively with my husband and I, but not at all with the rest of the world.  After 6 months of speech therapy 95% of his speech is original speech.  We actually used his echolalia as a technique to get him to repeat proper pronoun usage, which my son slowly turned into starting to use the pronouns pronouns properly and now creates a normal amount of original speech.  

    The most useful thing I have taken away from my son's speech therapy is correct my son's speech a lot. We give my son the thing he wants only when he asks for it correctly (he doesn't not have to get it right the first time, he can get it right after we correct him).  We basically reward correct speech and not incorrect speech.  We started doing it just around high need items like food and milk, and have moved to doing it with just about everything.  Frustration was minimal once he realized that he would get what he wanted once he used proper speech.  

    Your child's speech therapist if worried should be able to give you some age appropriate ways of dealing with echolalia and should be able to tell you what is age appropriate for your child.  My son is a bit older than your son, so our goal was proper pronoun usage all the time with grammatically correct sentences.  The goals will be different for different kids, depending on their age and what their speech issues are.

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  • I think there can be a fine line between what is typical repeating and how much echolalia is a red flag. At least, hard for a non-professional to tell, IMO. 

    I'm not even sure I can describe it all that well, but I've seen both -- in my DD1 (ASD) and DD2 (neurotypical). DD1 would repeat the last few words of a sentence a LOT. When she was about 2.5, we went 'round and 'round one day where I would ask her a question like "Are you done on the potty, yes or no?" and she'd go "yes or no." At that point I knew something was wrong.

    With DD2, she does repeat the last word or so, but there seems to be more intent to it -- which is hard to differentiate. She's confirming something for herself or trying out a new phrase. Sometimes she'll just whisper it to herself. DD1 will repeat whether or not something applies to her or whether or not a person is speaking to her -- like if someone is talking while passing us in the store, she may very well just repeat a few words of whatever she hears them saying. 

    I think the biggest difference is probably that DD2 doesn't do it as much, and she's much quicker to take new words and phrases and use them in novel ways in new contexts. Whereas my DD1 tends to rely on the same words and phrases in talking about a situation/object/etc. 


    DD1, 1/5/2008 ~~~ DD2, 3/17/2010
  • Thanks everyone.  I have seen some notes from his STs in our communication book where they seem very pleased at the verbal imitation so maybe I'm worrying needlessly but I'll make sure to keep them in the loop of how he's doing it at home.  


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