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Why do autistic people repeat words?

Echolalia is where an autistic person may repeat words and phrases.

What does it sound like?

There's immediate echolalia and there's delayed echolalia.
Immediate echolalia, that happens instantly, whereas delayed echolalia can happen hours days months or even years after.

Both can be interactive where the autistic person says them in a way to communicate. They can also both be non-interactive - where they're used for things like self-regulation.

Some repeated things may depend on the context like somebody repeating phrases of movie that have the same emotional impact as what they're experiencing right now.



A simple form of echolalia could be somebody asking: "Do you want cake?"
The autistic person may reply: "cake cake cake!"


Where a complex version could be someone asking:  "Do you want cake?"
and the autistic person responding with all the details they
heard off a movie or advert or set of instructions.


It could be for a stim behavior. This is because it feels good to repeat those words.

Stimming is any self-stimulatory act and it can use for stress relief, it can help focus and calm.


Find out more here: Stimming

See our sensory page to understand more about the senses: Senses

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder

In OCD the person may repeat the words because they're afraid of something happening and feel a lot of shame as a result.
They may do it because they think they're preventing harm and
protecting those they care about.

Sensory Processing

Also see our videos on each of the senses to understand what this may look like.It could also be due to sensory overload such as being close to shutdown or meltdown and this can be because of your senses of pain, temperature, touch, taste, smell, sight, balance, your body awareness, and your digestion.
That's a lot going on there.


Find out more here: Meltdowns

See our sensory page to understand more about the senses: Senses

Tics, Tourette's, and Echopraxia

It can also be due to tics, but with tics it's generally referred to as something called echopraxia.

Which means it's an involuntary repetition of words.


It can also be due to learning because every person during their development repeats words in order to get a grasp for how they feel.

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It could be because the autistic person doesn't actually understand what is being said or maybe they just understand a part of it so they're repeating something related to it meaning that they have some kind of understanding but not a full understanding.


It can also be because they want to reply but don't know what to say, but it doesn't mean that we're not paying attention we could be very interested in what you have to say.

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