Tuesday, May 01, 2018


I like having words for things. Like, laryngomalacia. I don't know that it was super important in general that we had a word for Alexander's breathing, but it was important to me. 

And now I have a word for Benjamin: echolalia.

I'm not sure exactly when this started, precisely, because all children repeat what they hear (that is, after all, how language is learned) but recently, within the past several months, he's been doing it more, which is odd because children usually grow out of it around age two or three. And I swear Benjamin did. But now he's doing it again. A lot. 

For example, I'll say, "Benjamin, you need to get your shoes on," and he'll mutter after me, "You need to get your shoes on," then will pause and say, "Okay, Mom!"

Or I'll say, "Do you want to go for a walk?" and he'll repeat (under his breath), "Do you want to go for a walk?" before answering, "Yes!"

Or, when I'm reading to him, he'll mumble along with me, only slightly behind. I used to think he was actually reading along with me (and perhaps he is?) but he is 100% unaware that he's doing it. Like, I've asked him about why he repeats everything I say and he legitimately has no idea what I'm talking about. 

Here's about how a conversation addressing his echoing goes down:

"Benjamin, why do you repeat everything I say?"

"Why do you repeat everything I say?" muttered softly, followed by his usual booming voice saying, "What do you mean, Mom? I don't do that!"
Of course, he doesn't always do it. He forms plenty of language all on his own accord (trust me; this child is rarely not talking) but he repeats often enough that it's put up a bit of a red flag for me.

Part of me thinks it's just some extra processing going on. He's only recently learned to read so his brain is restructuring how it stores words...or something. But another part of me is a little worried that it's a nervous tic (this article discusses palilalia (repeating oneself) as a nervous tic, so I fail to see why echolalia couldn't also be a nervous tic since they're closely related disorders).

The article about palilalia specifically mentioned certain stressors that could cause a child to exhibit a nervous tic for a time: "such as starting school or a new big sibling, or accomplishing a developmental hurdle (bike riding, reading)."

I read that list and thought about how Benjamin had done all of that this year:

Starting a new school? Check.
Getting a new baby brother? Check.
Learning to read? Check.

Not to mention moving across the country!

I'm sure he's been under loads of stress lately, both eustress and distress (doesn't matter). I know I have! I took the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory test around the time Alexander was born and my score was through the roof—and boy was I ever feeling it! Is it any wonder our children was/are feeling similarly? 

Rachel went through a similar thing when she started kindergarten. We'd just had a baby (Benjamin, prematurely, I might add, so that's a little more stressful) and then moved across the country and stuck her in full-day kindergarten. 

She used to come home from school and just...scream...for...hours. 

I didn't think much of it because she's always been a bit of a screamer. But then I realized that she had to deal with a lot of stress and culture shock as a little person, so maybe that's what all her screaming was about. 

Of course, I didn't realize this until my mom mentioned something (just a few months ago) about Rachel going through severe culture shock when we moved back to the States from Egypt. At the time I hadn't even noticed, but looking back I realize that everything about life in these United States was completely foreign to her. It was familiar to me...but she was grappling with everything for the first time. I probably didn't help her through that as I should have.

But, hey, the first kid is like the first pancake, right? 

Now I know (or at least I think I know) better and have at least recognized that my little boy is probably feeling just a little bit (or a lot bit) stressed out about life. He's still his plucky, happy-go-lucky, little self but is trying to sort out all these big, complicated things (like moving to a new place and having a new baby brother and the rigours of formal education). 

Knowing is half the battle, right? 

If I've recognized that my child is exhibiting a nervous tic then I have half a chance of helping calm his nerves so he can feel a little more in control of his life, right?



  1. Poor fellow. I remember when you said he cried thinking he might be left accidentally when y'all moved from NC.

    I didn't remember that Rachel came home from kindergarten and screamed for hours. :-(

  2. At least two of my children have (or had) echolalia at 5ish, but they’d repeat what THEY just said (softly under their breath). The older one out grew it, so I’m not too worried now. I’d never considered it’s linked to stress but that certainly makes sense. My older one told me recently that she was making sure she’d said the right thing and it made sense. Who knows...

    1. Good to hear! I'm sure he'll grow out of it, too. :)

  3. This post is inspiring me to look up what Sterling has - he often mouths words along with me, like toward the end of a sentence when he knows what I'm going to say. Or if he asks a question that he knows the answer to, he will sometimes mouth along (silently) with me. And when we're reading books that he knows really well, he'll sometimes do it then. So like echolalia, but...silent, and simultaneous?

    1. I imagine that would be something very similar to echolalia or palilalia. Often Benjamin's mutterings are mere mouthings of what I've just said...but I count it as a repetition... *shrug*

      Anticipating what you'll say sounds like it could be different, but also there's delayed echolalia where the person will repeat something they've heard a while ago (such as repeating sentences in books and so forth)...

      But do look it up and see if you can find an actual term for that!