Providing speech, language, and social communication services to children of all ages for 15 years! We specialize in physically-supportive services to children with autism diagnoses, and others who benefit from sensorimotor supports.

We are excited to bring you a new story this month — and to share with you how moms and dads are using NLA with their children.

Meet Finley!

We always say that moms and dads know best. Parents are the ones who know when their kids are developing language in ways that don't seem quite typical. Such was the case with Kayleigh. She knew something was a little "off" with her son's language, but no one really believed her. Then she discovered Natural Language Acquisition, read a couple of case studies on our website, and wrote to say to us that we were "describing her son."

We then carried on a long distance correspondence (across the ocean because Kayleigh lives in Great Britain), and she reports in every couple months with Finley's progress.

Here, in her own words, is Finley's story:

I first began noticing that Finley had difficulties communicating when he was around 2 years old, up until then people were amazed at his fantastic vocabulary and even told me I had a chatterbox on my hands. He had 10+ words at 14 months which grew to over 60 by 20 was the next stage of communicating that seemed to stump him. Even Dr's, Health Visitors, Pediatricians alike all commented on how well he was progressing and saw no signs of difficulty. However reassuring it is to hear a professional say how well your child is developing I couldn't not listen to my own personal Finley professional - Me - my mothers intuition was ringing its very own alarm bells. 

Now, Google is a scary open window and its definitely a double edged sword...but the first thing that I ever googled was 'Do Children have different language learning styles'. The answer is yes, and for 2 years I never got the answer I endlessly searched for until I spoke to the team at CDC. For me I knew that Finley was learning the act of labeling words with a combination of sounds, he could say anything and everything you asked him to repeat. He even said single words spontaneously but then there seemed to be a huge leap. He went from these single words to saying phrases, not the typical TV talk phrases you associate with Echolalia but everyday, very contextual Echolalia. Finley was a master of using these phrases at the appropriate times and still is. As with many children on the spectrum he suffers with acute anxiety, especially when separating from my husband and I. A phrase Finley used a lot when he was younger was 'Don't need to worry about it', but he used this phrase as his single and only expression when he was worried or anxious. He never said 'I feel nervous,' 'Finley scared,' etc. He had echoed very cleverly me saying to him 'Finley you don't need to worry about it' whenever he was anxious. He would spend his days at nursery saying to the teachers 'Mummy coming home soon,' simply changing the statement 'Mummy's coming home soon' that they would say to him when he was sad. 

When I spoke with professionals here in the UK and expressed my concerns, they assessed Finley's language based on how many words per sentence he could say, and at 2 years old he could say up to 8! So if anything they were very impressed, ticked the relevant boxes and left me to keep searching for answers. All I could say is that his language never felt free, he had so much language and could communicate quite well but day-to-day I never heard anything new. I began transcribing Finley's speech for a full day every few months to document progress, and also as my own little pieces of evidence to collect to show people how he was interacting and how it just wasn't how it should be. Being dismissed time after time not only is very disheartening but I was also a first time Mum with a myriad of concerns, I was beginning to look like a crazed neurotic Mother. 

Whilst in the midst of trying to get answers from anyone who would listen I opted to do my own research, I had read about Echolalia before but never in as much depth as I had until I found Marge's website. It felt like I had hit the jackpot when I read about Natural Language Acquisition, I sat and read article after article in disbelief. It was as though Marge had met, assessed and helped Finley personally the stories fit him that accurately. That very day it changed my view, a mother worrying her son would never communicate effectively, never have anyone understand him, to a totally relieved Mum who saw that this was a natural process, he is learning language and best of all it took away the worry of uncertainty that made my heart ache every day. 
Luckily after being in touch with the team I received the book 'Natural Language Acquisition on the Autism Spectrum' and not too sound over the top, but truthfully this book has changed my life. It has become my lifeline and a constant reminder on tough days that this is all natural and he is working as hard as he can to learn language. The detailed breakdown of each stage of echolalia really helped me asses Finley's development myself. Some days he uses much more gestalt phrases and doesn't seem to test out his new language and other days I think he sounds like a typical 4 year old. This book is a must have for any parent who's child has similar symptoms, here in the UK this development process isn't very well known and many will not be offered help as Finley wasn't. Take charge, you understand, you are the professional of your own child and this book will give you the much needed tools and the confidence to feel assured they are developing just as children on the spectrum do.

Finley is now 4 and still uses a lot of Echolalia, it is mostly mitigated but he is beginning to introduce his own spontaneous grammar. As his gestalts are still so cleverly mitigated and used the majority of time in context, passers by and even family and friends still don't see anything untoward. He is happy, smiley and totally awesome. I am so excited to see what the future holds for him, he still isn't at the stage where we can converse freely about everything but when I  compare him to this time a year ago he is a different boy. He is making amazing progress, but without access to the information of the book I would have no idea just how amazingly he has done.

Even today he shows me just how much he has developed, this time a year ago he would have clung to his 'don't need to worry about it' phrase when nervous. But today after a busy morning out at a local dance group, then a small trip into the supermarket he exclaimed proudly "I'm so stressed Mummy" (he did sound about 35 ha) but he was right he was. And even with him feeling so unsettled he was able to find the language and tell me he had had enough and needed to come home to re-charge :) 

He also said the cutest thing the other night; so cute I've kept it written down so I never forget. I was putting him to bed and he said "I've got a heart in my eyes because I love you" he means he is the heart eyes emoji! That boy :D it's also one of the 1st times he made a statement and gave a reason for it!

Below is some of Finely’s speech samples the mother has recorded, a month before he left the nursery, which was causing anxiety and negative language, and then a month after he left.

Finley Feb 2016 - this was when his language was very negative before he left nursery. 

'Mummy Mummy lets go on for the ladder'
'I don't know where it's arms' 
'You gotta make a gun'
You Gotta mane a monster thing' 
'I can't do that'
'I can't make a gun'
'I can't do it' 
'errrm can't do the building blocks' 
'You can't turn him in a dog'
'Turn in 5 jelly'
'I turn not jelly' 
'He not joining in with me' 
'I got my wings' 

Finley's speech 1 month later March 2016 when he had left nursery. 

'We can build it you want?'
'Let's take Sully out, he can go to bed' 
'We can do some this one' 
'Put this one this way'
'Now we got, where the sign is?'
'Yes, that means you brake you stop'
'Can I put train' 
'Yes this train'
'Because you got to have a yellow sign' 
'It's a train coming'
'Where’s it gone?'
'Where the green one' 
'A green sign that make it go'

NLA Study Group

We now have an NLA study group on Facebook!

Students and professionals with background in understanding echolalia and gestalt language development can now share ideas for supporting our kids next steps in language development.

If you have not taken the NLA course through Northern Speech Services, that will bring you up to date.

Please join us, click here for more!

In case you haven't read the NLA book, here's a nice review:

"It is hoped that this important work will help educators, therapists and parents move to more contemporary understandings and practices."

Barry M. Prizant, Ph. D., CCC-SLP
Adjunct Professor
Brown University

"Natural Language Acquisition on the Autism Spectrum: The Journey from Echolalia to Self-Generated Language is a wonderful resource that provides the most comprehensive consideration of echolalia and language characteristics of persons with autism to date."

"In this seminal work, Marge Blanc, an experienced clinician and clinical researcher, brings us back to a crucial understanding of language characteristics and language acquisition in ASD based on her deep understanding of language development from a social-pragmatic, child-centered perspective. Unfortunately, too many educators and therapists hold on to outdated and disproven perceptions of echolalia and gestalt language and attempt to 'treat' echolalia with a lack of knowledge of the historical context and research basis of our understanding of language development in ASD."

"By looking at echolalia only through a behavioral lens of pathology rather than through a developmental perspective based on research on autism and typical development, such practices may actually be hindering functional language development. It is hoped that this important work will help educators, therapists and parents move to more contemporary understandings and practices."

"This book is a 'must-read' for all who care about supporting social communication for persons with ASD based on research and sound clinical practice."

Barry M. Prizant, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Adjunct Professor
Brown University

Director, Childhood Communication Services
Cranston, RI

Echolalia unscripted!

Echolalia communicates! And it jump-starts our students’ natural language development!

This ground-breaking book will show you how to:

  • Recognize the meaning and intentions behind echolalia
  • Support students on the autism spectrum from echolalia to self-generated language
  • Bring this information to families and your school teams
  • Connect with your students on the autism spectrum, and watch them grow!

NLA Book

Order your copy today!
$29.95 plus shipping and handling.


A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words


Spring Semester:

January 4 — May 27

Summer Session:

June 20 — August 12

First Day of Fall Session:

September 12, 2016

Welcome to CDC!

We are a small, non-profit clinic on the west side of Madison, WI, specializing in communication services for children who benefit from play and physical activity to support their interactions and language: children with challenges associated with autism, dyspraxia, and sensorimotor coordination. Please browse our site to learn more about us!

For some of the latest thinking on ASD and child development, please like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter!

New NLA course

The new NLA course is ready and the reviews are already in:

"I can hardly express how important this information is – it has the potential to revolutionize language therapy for autistic children all over the world. I hope it will become one of our field’s ‘best practices’ to embrace echolalia as the first step in the natural progression of language development for our clients with autism who are gestalt language processors..I believe ALL speech-language pathologists who work with children with autism should have to take this course – it’s that important. (I think it is telling that Barry Prizant recently praised Marge’s work in his recent book, Uniquely Human.) I plan to strongly recommend Levels 1 and 2 to my students and colleagues. I certainly hope there will be a Level 3 follow-up course, and that NLA will be a topic of discussion ASHA-wide!"

Check out the course here!

What's new on facebook?

Check out this thought-provoking and eye-opening blog post about "Motor Difficulties in Severe Autism," and other links in our CDC Facebook page!

even if you've read the articles on echolalia, you may want to read about: dyspraxic speech support, language retrieval, and self-regulation.

Read more at our articles page.

articles by Marge Blanc

Bringing It Home: Physical Supports for Speech at Home and in Other Environments

It's All Gibberish to Me: Redefining "Non-verbal"

More Than Words (Parts 1-6)

Click here for more articles by Marge Blanc