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 is a detailed description of the stages of gestalt language development created by speech-language pathologist Marge Blanc (based off of Dr. Barry Prizant and Dr. Ann Peter's pioneering 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 an ongoing example 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 "how to" in supporting kids who communicate with delayed echolalia using the Natural Language Acquisition framework developed by Marge Blanc.
Meaningful Speech has a main course that provides self paced learning through educational modules, handouts and bonus modules featuring experts in the field. You can purchase the course on 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?”
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.”