Scenario 1 – Echolalia

Because Everyone's A Gift

In this scenario we will explore best practices towards:Dealing with annoying/aggravating people
Managing stressful situations
Engaging people who exhibit odd characteristics
Dealing with people that exhibit signs of intoxication
How to identify people with special needs
In the following scenario keep an eye out for these characteristics: • Repeating what you are saying
• Defying authority
• Sensory overload (Not complying with commands)
• Mirroring body language or actions
• Showing a Flush response (Red in the face)
• Problems identifying authority or knowing what to do in high stress situations.
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         John was driving his police car late at night. It had been a long day, and all he wanted to do was go home and to his wife and kids. He was doing his last round of patrols in the neighborhood when he sees a young man walking through the street. The subject wasn’t doing anything illegal, but since it’s a bad area of town, and it’s after midnight, he decides to investigate anyway. He pulls alongside the man, leans out and says “Hey, man. What’s up?” in an inquisitive way.  The man responds “Hey, man. What’s up?”

         John gets confused, saying “Are you making fun of me?” The man parrots back, “Are you making fun of me”?  At this point, John is getting frustrated with the apparent lack of compliance – he gets out of the vehicle and says “if you don’t watch your mouth, I’m going to have to take you in!”, to which the man replied, “If you don’t watch your mouth, I’m going to have to take you in!”

       At this point John snaps, it’s been a long day and this civilian seems to just want to make it longer. With a frustrated exclamation – “That’s it!  You’re coming with me!” Next thing the young man knew, he was on the ground in handcuffs, before being whisked away to a holding cell.

What signs of neuro-divergence did the subject exhibit?

Subject Repeated Everything

The Subject Demonstrated Echolalia

Echolalia is the repetition or echoing of words or sounds that you hear someone else say. It is an important step for language development in children.‌ Echolalia can also be a sign of autism or developmental disability in children or neurological problems in adults.

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Not Picking Up on Social Cues/Difficulty Reading the Situation

The Subject May Also have Autism

a developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behavior.

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There are a few places that John could have acted differently. Armed with knowledge about the disorders Echolalia & Autism, let’s re-examine the situation.

         John was driving his police car late at night. It had been a long day, and all he wanted to do was go home and to his wife and kids. He was doing his last round of patrols in the neighborhood when he sees a young man walking through the street. The subject wasn’t doing anything illegal, but since it’s a bad area of town, and it’s after midnight, he decides to investigate anyway. He pulls alongside the man, leans out and says “Hey, man. What’s up?” in an inquisitive way.  The man responds “Hey, man. What’s up?” John notices that the young man is repeating his own words back at him – and while it’s certainly unusual, all that he’s doing is repeating what’s being spoken back to him.

         John continues, “I noticed that you are walking through the dark street late at night, and was wondering if you are lost or need help?” the young man responds, “I noticed that you are walking through the dark street late at night, and was wondering if you are lost or need help?” At this point, since the young man hasn’t taken an aggressive tone, or exhibited any signs of disrespect, John realizes he isn’t being mocked. He recalls a training seminar about echolalia – phrases being echoed verbatim, sometimes out of context, because they don’t necessarily understand the exact words of  a phrase. John can guess that the echoes are part of a neurological disorder and are not a threat to his safety.

         John does an assessment of the situation and notices that there are no injuries on the young man, he seems to have awareness of his situation, and he seems to have a destination in mind. John states that he is here to help and limits the use of further questions, as echolalia can be worsened with anxiety. Seeing that the young man is not hurting anyone and seems to have a destination in mind, John drives off, telling him “Stay safe – this can be a bad area of town this time at night!”

Armed with a bit of knowledge and using empathy, this officer was able to de-escalate the situation without causing harm to the special needs individual.


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