The Basics On Gestalt Language Learning

The Basics On Gestalt Language Learning | Sol Speech And Language Therapy In Austin Texas

As a new parent, it can be very encouraging to watch your child meet developmental milestones.

The first time they sit up, crawl, and walk by themselves are all very exciting.

When they say their first words, and then string those words together into sentences – you’re beaming with pride.

It gives them a new way to communicate with you, so you know longer have to guess why they might be upset or what they want.

However, sometimes, there are irregularities with meeting these milestones which you may not anticipate.

For instance, your kid might start to repeat phrases they’ve heard without accounting for the context or meaning.

This is known as echolalia and is part of gestalt language learning.

There’s nothing wrong with this way of acquiring language.

It does, however, require a different approach from parents and caregivers to help kids learn new words and be able to express ideas.

Today, we’re going to look at the different ways your child might learn language and what it could mean if they’re using gestalt language learning.

We’ll also review some tips on how to support them, and the ways a pediatric speech therapist can help.

What Is Analytic Language Learning?

Learning language, the analytic way, involves learning the meanings of individual words, and building on them.

Once an analytic learner has learned the meaning of words, they can then start to use it in new contexts.

This allows them to build new phrases on their own.

For example, an analytic language learner might learn the words “soft”, “black” and “cat” separately, and then put them together when they meet a “soft, black cat”.

This is how most children learn language.

What Is Gestalt Language Learning?

The word gestalt (geh-shtalt) comes from German.

It means something made of many parts that becomes more than the sum of its parts.

In the context of language learning, a gestalt is a multi-word phrase.

Gestalt language learners will hear and reuse these phrases without fully knowing and understanding the individual components.

This is because they process groups of words rather than individual words.

To use the example above, they might see a caregiver refer to their pet as a “soft black cat”, and might now use this every time the see any cat.

In this case, a gestalt language learner has memorized this short phrase, without fully understanding each individual word.

The gestalt language learning process can be described using the natural language acquisition stages, which are:

  1. Echolalia – repetition of words said by others, using complete gestalts
  2. Mitigated Gestalts – using partial gestalts
  3. Isolation of single words they’ve taken from other gestalts
  4. Using original sentences, gradually getting more complex

Who Is More Likely To Use Gestalt Language Learning?

Although many people will learn language through a combination of analytic and gestalt learning, autistic children often use this type of learning.

RELATED: Speech Therapy For Autistic Children

Much of the information available on gestalt language learning is in reference to its use by autistic people.

Echolalia, in particular, is common in autistic children.

This involves memorizing phrases which they associate with certain situations.

For example, if you ask them “are you thirsty” before offering something to drink, they may now associate this phrase with getting something to drink.

Rather than understanding this as a question, they may now say “are you thirsty” when they want something to drink.

They’ve memorized the phrase as a whole rather than understanding the meaning of individual words.

Immediate echolalia is when words are repeated immediately, or after a short delay.

Delayed echolalia is when this happens after an extended period of time.

However, allistic children may also be gestalt language learners.

What Is Gestalt Language Learning? | Sol Speech And Language Therapy In Austin Texas

How Can You Tell How Your Child Is Learning Language?

Knowing which type of language learning your child is primarily using can help you to better support them as they start speaking.

Typically, most children use analytic language learning.

In some cases, they could use both; let’s look at signs to watch out for.

Some characteristics of analytic language learning include:

  • Learning single words as individual units
  • Acquiring language in a way seen as “typical”
  • Progressing with language, learning individual words first and then combining them

Signs your child may be using gestalt language learning can include:

  • Imitating phrases they have heard from others (echolalia)
  • Breaking down phrases as they start to learn individual words
  • Using the words from phrases they have broken down, to build up new sentences

Tips To Help Support Your Gestalt Language Learning Child

If your child uses gestalt language processing to learn, there are ways you can support their language learning.

First, try to respond with the intention of speech in mind, rather than focusing on the literal meaning of their words.

Remember that when kids are gestalt language learners, what they mean may be different than what their actual words say.

Identify the scripts and context your child uses, and determine what they actually mean.

Acknowledge their communication attempts, either through words or by smiling and nodding.

Echoing your words may be your child’s way of responding affirmatively.

For example, if you say “Do you want to go to the park?” they may say “Go to the park” instead of “yes please”.

Rather than responding with corrections or “replacement” language, model the way you use language when possible.

This can include using simple speech when speaking to your child so they can more easily learn the meaning of words.

It can also mean repeating their own scripts – for example saying “I’m hungry” rather than “are you hungry”?

You can help them learn the meanings of individual words with visual cues as well.

In addition to these tips, here are some things to avoid when communicating with your child who uses gestalt language learning:

  • Don’t avoid asking them questions
  • Don’t focus on their faults or mistakes
  • Try not to use long, complex phrases with your child
  • Don’t ignore when your child is trying to communicate with you
  • If your child uses gestures or other means of communication besides words, don’t try to force them to use only verbal communication

How Can Speech Therapy For Gestalt Language Learners Help?

If your child is a gestalt language learner, speech therapy can help them learn to use self-generated language, rather than echolalia or repetition of phrases they’ve heard from others.

It’s most effective when used in natural and engaging contexts, such as during play.

Generally, your speech therapist will allow them to lead play and use their interests to target language acquisition.

If you’re looking for some guidance to navigate helping your child learn language, then it’s time to…

Book Your Appointment With Sol Speech And Language Therapy Today

Have you noticed your child is using gestalt language learning?

Do they repeat things you say, or use phrases which don’t quite make sense in context?

If you’re looking for interventions to help ensure they are able to communicate better with the world around them, begin with an assessment at one of our speech therapy clinics today.

Book your appointment with Sol Speech & Language Therapy.

Sol Speech & Language Therapy
6448 E Hwy 290 Suite E-108,
Austin, TX 78723

(512) 368-9488

Sol Speech & Language Therapy
555 Round Rock W Dr E-221,
Round Rock, TX 78681

(512) 808-3953

Sol Speech & Language Therapy offers personalized skilled intervention to those struggling with their speech and language skills. Services offered include screening, consultation, and comprehensive evaluation. We also provide one-on-one and/or group therapy for speech sound disorders, receptive/expressive language delay/disorder, stuttering/cluttering, accent reduction, and much more.