Echoic skills are a type of language whereby a speaker repeats the words of another speaker. It is a skill in imitation. A child who says the words ‘choo choo’ after his mother says “choo choo”, while playing with a train is engaging in an echoic skill.
Echoic behaviour produces large amounts of reinforcement, such as praise and attention. For example, if a parent says ‘that’s a bear! Can you say bear?’ and the child says ‘bear’ they would receive praise and reward for that, which means the child will keep using the word “bear”.
The echoic repertoire is very important for teaching language to children with language delays, and is critical for teaching more complex verbal skills.
It is also generally essential for everyday life. By listening to others, and imitating what they have said, we can know what to do in new situations.
One amusing way to test a child’s echoic skills might be to have them repeat animal noises such as the noise a cat makes, or a dog makes. Don’t forget to say it first – we want them saying exactly what you say, not answering questions.