02 Dec Rethinking Echolalia: Repetition and Ventriloquation in the Communication of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Laura Sterponi (UC Berkeley, Graduate School of Education)
Friday, December 2 / 1:30-3:30 PM
In its close association with other perseverative behaviors, echolalia is one of the defining features of autism spectrum disorders. It has traditionally been conceived of as an automatic, pre-reflexive behavior that bears no or minimal communicative function and compromises intersubjectivity.
The present study of two 6-year-old children with autism reconsiders the role of echolalic behavior in the communication of affected children. We examine spontaneous verbal interactions in the home setting and show that echoes may serve as an interactional resource by which the child aligns to or diverts courses of actions put forth by the interlocutor.
Through an innovative integrated methodology, which combines linguistic, discourse and acoustic analyses, we demonstrate that: (1) Immediate echoes are not rigid and automatic responses entailing minimal cognitive processing and emotional resonance. Rather, they accomplish a range of interactional goals by being delivered in specific sequential positions, at differing time onsets, and with distinctive prosodic contours. (2) Delayed echoes are employed systematically and productively to mark epistemic and affective stances through the reanimation of other voices.
This analysis prompts us to go beyond a symptomatic characterization of autism echolalia to acknowledge the complex interactional work that children with autism accomplish through echo usage.
Sponsored by Language, Interaction and Social Organization (LISO)