Echolalia refers to a type of imitative speech involving the repetition of selected words and/or phrases, often seen in individuals with autistic spectrum disorders. Imitation is a normal learning strategy used by young children to practice language. However, imitative speech is typically abandoned by around two years of age. Although persistent echolalia was once thought to simply reflect delayed language development, current theories suggest that more may be involved. It has been posited that echolalia may be an alternative form of self-stimulatory behavior, frequently seen in persons with autism. Alternatively, observation of children with autism at play seems to indicate that echolalia may represent an attempt to interact with others. The functional intent of echolalia remains a topic of debate.

Hubbard, C.A. (2001). Facilitating social communication through the sensorimotor approach. In Huebner, R.A. (Ed.), Autism: A sensorimotor approach to management (pp.277). Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, Inc.