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Playing with Wooden Toys

Natural Language Acquisition and Gestalt Language Processing

Analytic Language Development and Gestalt Language Development are two ways to process and develop language.


Many people think of Analytic Language Development as the “standard" method of developing language, using words first as the building blocks to produce sentences. Children who use Gestalt Language Development process language in whole chunks instead of processing single words, at first. While everyone uses some echolalia, echolalia is THE essential part of language development for Gestalt Language Processors. Both Analytic Language Development and Gestalt Language Development are normal and natural! (Ann Peters, 1983)

Autistic individuals are often Gestalt Language Processors. When people hear echolalia used by an autistic child, the reaction is often “Should I ignore it?" or “How do we get rid of it?” But neurotypical individuals can also be Gestalt Language Processors! We just don’t realize their “jargon" is really echolalia!


Autistic individuals might use echolalia later than neurotypical children do, but it’s the same Gestalt Language Development. And the real truth is, echolalia is a beautiful part of language development! It is not something to fear, to be frustrated with, or to ignore.


Here is why: echolalia communicates!

The evaluation for GLP will look different:  

  • At least 4 language samples (this may take two 60-minute sessions or four 30-minute sessions)

  • Five videos submitted by the family, running at least 5 minutes each, of the child playing, conversing, or interacting with family members

  • A family-provided list of their child’s scripts/phrases along with the meaning/interpretation and context of that script.

  • The use of NLA scoring guidelines 

  • A 10-15 business day wait time for scoring, assessment, and report-writing.

Irene Gutierrez is an NLA-trained clinician and is listed on the following registries: 

Meaningful Speech | NLA Trained Clinician Registry (

NLA SLP Registry - Communication Development Center

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