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Helping Kids Thrive

Nov 30, 2023

Not all children learn language in the same way. Neurotypical children usually learn through analytic language processing (also known as bottom-up processing), while children with autism who are verbal, are more likely to use gestalt language processing (often referred to as top-down processing). With gestalt language processing, children learn language in chunks or phrases, with single words only appearing at later stages as they learn to break down and recombine these gestalts (or language chunks) to create new, spontaneous utterances. Joining us today to break down the ins and outs of gestalt language processing and how adults can learn to adapt to a child’s unique style of learning, is Jesse Ferrell, a Certified Speech Language Pathologist (CCC-SLP) who has worked with all kinds of students, including those with autism. In our conversation Jesse expands on gestalts, where children pick them up, and how you can learn to recognize them. She also unpacks the concept of echolalia and how it relates to gestalt language processing, before examining how our understanding of echolalia has shifted in recent years and how we can better support children when we embrace their language processing style. Communication between children and their parents isn’t always easy, but sometimes the most important thing is simply showing your child that you want to connect with them. To hear all of Jesse’s knowledgeable insights on communication, language, and connection, be sure to tune in today!


Key Points From This Episode:

  • An overview of gestalt language processing, also known as top-down processing.

  • The prevalence of gestalt language processing in children with autism.

  • Analytic language processing and the development you can expect in neurotypical children.

  • How gestalt language processors differ from typical analytic language processors.

  • An explanation of gestalts, also known as language chunks.

  • Examples of how children use gestalts and learning how to recognize it.

  • How to better understand what your child is trying to communicate when they use gestalts.

  • The concept of echolalia and how it relates to gestalt language processing.

  • An overview of the two main types of echolalia: immediate and delayed echolalia.

  • The shift in how echolalia is being viewed, from non-functional to functional.

  • Recognizing the style that a child is using to learn language.

  • Adapting to a child’s style of language learning.

  • Signs that can help a parent recognize whether their child is a gestalt processor.

  • How stress can make your child revert to earlier gestalts.

  • What parents can do to support their child’s language development.