Why Do Kids with Autism Script & How to Reduce Scripting and Delayed Echolalia

Many kids with autism who have some language
but are not conversational say lines from movies and pat phrases repetitively. We call this scripting or delayed echolalia. So today I’m going to cover why kids with
autism script so much and give some strategies to reduce it if it becomes a problem. Hi I’m Dr. Mary Barbera, autism mom, board
certified behavior analyst and online course creator. Each week I provide you with some of my ideas
about turning autism around. So if you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube
channel, you can do that now. Delayed echolalia was one of the first signs
of autism in my son Lucas when he was under two years old before I was aware that he was
showing signs with autism. My husband and I used to take Lucas to the
park and read him … They had signs there that said, “Please do not feed the ducks.” So my husband would read the sign please do
not feed the ducks and he would add quack, quack. Then Lucas would run to the next sign which
was several feet down the way and my husband would again read the sign, please do not feed
the ducks. Quack, quack. So a week or two after we would go to the
museum in the middle of the night, Lucas might wake up and he would say, ple do not feed
the duck. Quack, quack. I actually counted these eight words, please
do not feed the duck quack, quack and I added these eight words to Lucas’s list of 20 words
that he said pretty consistently, not realizing that these eight words were not functional
and were actually a sign of autism and that sign was called delayed echolalia. So over the years as a behavior analyst, I’ve
had clients with a lot of scripting in delayed echolalia. One former client named Alex scripted 500
times a day when I first started with him. Another client is having trouble reciting
road names and traffic sign details. For many of my clients, scripting lines from
favorite movies is really big issue that interferes with home and school life. Like in the case of Alex who scripted 500
times per day when he was in sixth grade, this high level of delayed echolalia even
affected our job placement decisions for him. Parents and teachers don’t know how to deal
with delayed echolalia or scripting, so I’m going to cover some things to think about. Before we start talking about this as a problem
behavior or strategies to fix it, I do want to point out that the fact that children are
talking and saying anything, even if they’re scripting from the same movie over and over
again, the fact that they’re talking is a good thing. It’s just an issue if it happens at high rates
and interferes with functional communication. But if I have my choice between a totally
silent child who’s not talking at all or a child that’s scripting constantly, I would
have more success working initially with that child who is scripting. Because we know that they can speak and it’s
just a matter of getting that language under some instructional control when the floodgates
will open. So the first step in reducing scripting or
delayed echolalia would be assessment. What does the child say at all? What did they say repetitively? When does the scripting happen? Is it when they’re alone, when you’re trying
to engage them in other tasks and how often does it occur? Lucas doesn’t script a lot anymore but just
yesterday, he said, “Please do not kick.” Which we have no idea where this came from,
he’s never had a problem with kicking and I don’t think anyone, especially me, has ever
said please do not kick to Lucas. He may have heard it with another kid years
ago but once in a while we’ll hear, please do not kick. Like every month or so, we’ll hear please
do not kick. Which is kind of out of the blue, it’s definitely
not a problem. Also yesterday he said, “It’s okay. It’s not going to hurt.” When he banged his elbow while we were shopping. So we have to make a plan for scripting. For Lucas it’s not an issue and we want to
make sure that everybody is following the plan. For Lucas ignoring that please do not kick
is what we do. But for the second script that he said yesterday,
it’s not gonna hurt, I realized that that script actually told me that he had hurt himself. So I asked him what he had heard and I transferred
that language into I hurt my elbow. Dr. Carbone, Dr. Vincent Carbone who I’ve
learned a time from over the years, he’s a behavior analyst, he gives lectures and talks
about the three buttons. I actually did a video blog on this many months
ago, so you may want to check that out now. But he described the three buttons of engagement
with a child with autism and that middle button with them responding without any problem behaviors
means that you have the right language, the right directions at the right level with the
right reinforcement. You’re going to want to see that middle button
being pushed. If you don’t have everything right, the skills
are that you’re trying to teach her too hard or too easy or you don’t have the right level
of reinforcement, what you’ll see is either escape. Like, this is boring, I want to be done, when
can we be done, they might actually fall to the ground or run away from you. Or will have that other button on the other
side which is self stim or scripting behavior. So you might be trying to teach the child
something or engage with the child and they are scripting. So if you use Dr. Carbone’s three-button theory,
that self-stimulatory behavior, scripting, is a problem behavior and it does interfere
with our middle button of great language and great instructional control. So in Alex, we were able to use that three
button theory. Actually, for all of my clients who are talking
but not conversational who have problems with scripting, we really analyze things from those
three buttons. If we get a lot of scripting or a lot of escape,
either verbalizations or physical movements of escape, we have to think that it’s our
analysis that needs to be sharper, our teaching procedures that need to be better, our reinforcement
systems that need to be better. So with Alex we were able over time to get
his scripting and his delayed echolalia down from 500 a day to single digits. Another client I had who I did an analysis
on, I did a functional behavior assessment on across three different settings. When I started with her at age five, she had
90% of the intervals. She had some level of self-stimulatory and
scripting behavior. We were able to take that client and get her
down from 90% of the intervals with scripting and self stim to zero. So what did I do? What did we do to get this scripting and delayed
echolalia down? It involved years of great ABA, systematic
step-by-step programming, thinking about the three buttons, thinking about reinforcement,
the right level of demands and the right reinforcement. To get started using my approach, which will
help you start turning things around for kids with autism, you can sign up for our free
workshop at marybarbera.com/workshops. Wherever you’re watching this, please leave
me a comment, give me a thumbs up, share this video with others who might benefit and I’ll
see you right here next week.

16 thoughts on “Why Do Kids with Autism Script & How to Reduce Scripting and Delayed Echolalia

  1. My son says airplane a lot, but mostly if he hears it or is playing with it. He wants us to repeat after him too. Iโ€™ve noticed that sometimes he users airplane to mean Iโ€™m hungry.

  2. Thanks for the video. Iโ€™ve wondered why my 9-year-old repeats phrases: Is it to calm himself down when he is scared? Using echolalia to escape is a motive I never considered

  3. My daughter is 2.5 and randomly sings "happy birthday" or pieces of her 2 other favorite songs throughout the day. Does this sound like she's just having fun or like delayed echolalia?

  4. My son keeps scripting the whole day.He scripts even the lines from the books we read,sings songs and it affects his attention and communication. Just looking for a replacement method.

  5. I used to tell everybody that our life is like a "musical", my son would sing all day his favorite rhymes. I always thought, that because now he sings things that have some relevance to our lives like, when it rains, he starts singing "rain, rain go away" this is good. Apparently, I might have to look into this. Also, nobody discussed knew what this was, and some are trained teacher of autistic kids. I will be explaining this to them now.

  6. My son is 9. He is verbal but not conversational. He scripts constantly, but he uses the scripting in correct context. Should I really try to make him stop scripting! Will that reduce his language?

  7. I am a young woman with Aspergerโ€™s syndrome and I was stricken with echolalia when I was little. It does get better or even disappear. I donโ€™t have it anymore.

  8. Hi, Mary! I met you years and years ago. Iโ€™m Lindaโ€™s sister. My son has autism and is starting to script. I just learned this term and I just found your video. Thank you for sharing.

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