Natural Language Acquisition
and Gestalt Language Processing


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 Marge Blanc (based off of Prizant and Peter's research). Gestalt language processors process language in chunks rather than one word at a time.  Most typically developing kids will say "dog" and then eventually "big dog" and then expand from there. 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.  They have a hard time breaking the"chunk" (or gestalt) apart. 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 four 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 in 2020 to educate SLPs, professionals and parents on gestalt language processing and the step by step approach to treating delayed echolalia using the Natural Language Acquisition framework developed by Marge Blanc.


Meaningful Speech is a course hat provides self paced learning through educational modules, handouts and monthly webinars featuring experts in the field. You can click here to join and access the site here.


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

  • Ex: “Let’s get out of here.”  

  • Ex: “Want some more?”

  • Use of partial gestalts  

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

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

  • (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!”

  • “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 get “unstuck” and begin to generate their own novel phrases and sentences!

Visit our course for Parents AND Professionals -Meaningful Speech

Get your one page handout on gestalt language processing here.


Helpful articles written by Marge Blanc 

Parent/Staff Friendly NLA handout