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Gestalt Language Processing Explained

Before we start, here is the terminology we will be using in this blog post:


Echolalia is the repetition of utterances produced by others. There are two types of echolalia—immediate and delayed.

Immediate Echolalia

Refers to utterances that are repeated immediately or after a brief delay.

Delayed Echolalia

Refers to utterances that are repeated after a significant delay (Prizant & Rydell, 1984).


A gestalt is the term given to single words, phrases, sentences that are copied from another source and repeated after a delay.

Gestalt Language Development

Is a style of language development with predictable stages that begins with production of multi word "gestalt forms" and ends with production of original phrases and sentences,

Natural Language Acquisition

Is a framework devised by Marge Blanc (2012) that outlines the process that was previously described in the 80s by researchers Ann Peters and Barry Prizant.

Did you know there are two different ways to develop language?

There are:

1. Analytical Language Processors


2. Gestalt Language Processors

Analytical Language Processors:

Think back to you as a baby, did you say first word? You could be an analytical language processor (ALP)!

For ALPs:

· Basic units of language are words.

· First they babble.

· Then use single words.

· Then they combine words.

· Then they start learning grammar and using sentences.

Gestalt Language Processors (GLPs):

For GLPs:

· Basic units of language are "chunks".

· Use of gestalt language i.e. scripting/echolalia to communicate e.g. “Swiper no Swiping”.

· Then they learn to break apart these chunks into smaller chunks, this is called mitigation

· Then they learn to isolate words and use single words and 2 word combinations

· Then they start forming sentences and learning about grammar.

· Research says 75-85% of autistic people are gestalt language processors! However, more research is needed in this area.

Stages of Gestalt Language Processing:

Stage 1: Echolalia

The child communicates using delayed echolalia. This can be from media (YouTube) or from communication partners – family members, school staff, friends.


  • Let’s get help

  • Want some more

Stage 2: Mitigated Gestalts

This child now uses of parts of their gestalts and is mixing and matching different gestalts to communicate.


  • “Let’s get” + “some more”= “Let’s get some more!”

  • “Want” + “help”= “Want help.”

Stage 3: Single Words

The child has now learned to isolate words from gestalts and starts to recognize single words as a unit! They are also starting to combine 2 words together.


  • Get

  • Help

  • Want

  • More

  • Get help

  • Want help

  • Get more

Stages 4/5/6: Beginning grammar, more complex sentences

The child is now producing original sentences and is beginning to use grammar!


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