Natural Language Acquisition
and Gestalt Language Processing

WHAT IS NATURAL LANGUAGE ACQUISITION

Does your child or a child you work with echo or script to communicate? Do they repeat questions, books or movies, but have a hard time producing spontaneous utterances? Have you tried different therapies and techniques but don't see improvement? PLEASE check out Natural Language Acquisition.  If this sounds like your child and you are curious to hear about using this approach, contact us!
 

Natural Language Acquisition was developed for gestalt language processors that use delayed echolalia to communicate by speech-language pathologist Marge Blanc (based off of  Dr. Barry Prizant and Dr. Ann Peter's research). Gestalt language processors process language in chunks and focus more on intonation than on words. A GLP may store a chunk of language for later use using the exact intonation and language the original speaker used.  Most gestalts (chunks of language or scripts) are also tied to an emotional experience/memory for GLPs.  Most typically developing kids (analytic language processors) will say "dog" and then eventually "big dog" and then expand from there ("mama big dog"). Gestalt language processors may hear a parent say, "Wow, that's a big dog!" and that's what they say every time they see a dog (or any other animal, or walk by the park...).  They have a hard time breaking the"chunk" (or gestalt) apart in the beginning stage of gestalt language development. Natural Language Acquisition is the framework used to guide us in helping a child move from echolalia to self-generated (original, flexible) language.

 

As described in Natural Language Acquisition on the Autism Spectrum: A journey from Echolalia to Self-Generated Language (Marge Blanc, 2012), there are six primary stages of language development among gestalt language processors. They are summarized below, with two ongoing examples to illustrate the progression.  In reality, mitigation is happening with many phrases simultaneously.  

Alexandria Zachos created Meaningfulspeech.com in 2021 to educate SLPs, professionals and parents on gestalt language processing and the step by step approach to supporting kids who communicate with delayed echolalia using the Natural Language Acquisition framework developed by Marge Blanc.

 

Meaningful Speech has a main course hat provides self paced learning through educational modules, handouts and monthly webinars featuring experts in the field. You can purchase the course here. Meaningfulspeech.com

The site also offers free PDFs with an explanation of GLP and the research and resources that exist on this topic.

 

The Six Stages of Natural Language Acquisition (Blanc, 2012)
  • Use of complete gestalts   

  • Ex: “Let’s get out of here.”  

  • Ex: “Want some more?”

1. ECHOLALIA
  • Use of partial gestalts  

  • “Let’s get” + “some more” =  “Let’s get some more!”

  • “Want” + “out of here” =  “Want out of here.”

2. MITIGATED ECHOLALIA
3. ISOLATION OF THE SINGLE WORD
  • (1) “Let’s get” + “wanna get” =  “get”

  • Use of single words that have isolated “Some more” + “No more” =  “more from mitigated phrases

  • (2) “Get more!” and “More get!”

4/5/6.BEGINNING GENERATIVE GRAMMAR​​
  • “I get.” “Get more no.” “No get some.”

  • Use of original sentences using “I wanna get some more toys.”

  • Beginning grammar “He got toys and books.”

Speech-language therapy with an SLP that understands NLA can help your child begin to generate their own novel phrases and sentences!  If you live outside of IL please check out our world-wide registry of NLA trained SLPs at meaningfulspeechregistry.com

Visit our course for Parents AND Professionals -Meaningful Speech

Get your one page handout on gestalt language processing here. 

www.meaningfulspeech.com

 

Helpful articles written by Marge Blanc 

Parent/Staff Friendly NLA handout