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What It's Like to Live With Echolalia

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If I have said it once, I have said it a hundred times.

Living with echolalia can be very challenging. Simply stated, I repeat sounds, words, and phrases over and over again.

I’ll hear a sound or somebody says something, and I’ll repeat it. I can’t always control it. I might catch it. It still may come out anyway. Usually, I say it two to 10 times. At times, I may say it over a hundred times in a row.

There have been times that I repeated the same thing over and over again all day. I didn’t have to really do anything those days — just my daily routine. I didn’t have anything to take my mind off of it.

It’s a part of my thought process as well. If I don’t think some of my thoughts out loud, they may not fully process. Quite often I can’t figure problems out until I’ve repeated parts of them out loud.

It is essential to my learning process. When I am reading, I read aloud to myself. If I want to remember what I’m reading then I must read aloud. It slows my reading down. I think it’s one of the reasons I remember what I’ve read so well.

It’s also an autistic stim. Repeating words and phrases can be a stress reliever, the same as when I clench my right hand.

The more something strikes me, the more likely I am to say it. Loud unexpected sounds. Boom. Bong. Cling. Clash. Pow. Thud. Whack. I quite often repeat profound things I read and hear people say. Well, at least I thought they were profound.

I read road signs going down the road, and different things I hear on TV while I’m watching it. I’ll say the name of whatever I’m going to get a number of times on the way to get it.

It’s very inconvenient.

It may be off-subject in a conversation, something from a conversation with a different person, something I was talking about an hour ago and is now inappropriate. I don’t want other people to hear, but it happens anyway.

I believe that as autism is a disorder of the self, echolalia is a disorder of the truth.

If I’m thinking something about somebody, it may slip out.

I usually say the thought I have when somebody walks in the door. It could be, “Hey!” or “Glad to see you.” Or it could be, “About time,” the one I am most famous for, “Damn it,” or the one that gets me in the most trouble, “Oh shit.”

I call myself out on stuff all the time. If I’ve told a lie or done something wrong, at some point I’m going to be repeating it.

The best way not to repeat something and call myself out is not to do it. Not telling lies. Not just trying to cover a wrong or save my butt. Not hiding my feelings. Speaking my heart.

At the same time, people can tell that I said what I was thinking. It just came out. I meant what I said.

The worst part about having echolalia is how people ridicule me for repeating myself so many times in a row. It makes me look “crazy” to some people.

It is a very large part of who I am. I am well known for saying anything anywhere at any time. I am feared by some, praised by more, and loved by many for speaking my mind.

Getty image by Mangostar Studio.

Originally published: October 21, 2020
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