What is Natural Language Acquisition?​

Natural Language Acquisition (NLA) is a systematic way of looking at natural language development from echolalia to self- generated grammar.


Children who have echolalia are known as ‘gestalt language processors,’ meaning they process early language in ‘whole’ strings of sounds, or ‘chunks’, rather than processing single words.


Gestalt language processors are not limited to children on the autism spectrum. In fact, many neurotypical children begin acquiring language as gestalts.


NLA acknowledges the communicative intent underlying echolalia and helps the child break apart their gestalt scripts and recombine the pieces into new combinations, phrases, and sentences.


NLA describes the stages of the child’s language development, presents assessment strategies, and offers appropriately matched supports at each level.



—Marge Blanc, M.A., CCC-SLP and Olivia Wolkoff, M.S., CF-SLP

Resources for Guidance




  • Creator and Instructor: Alexandria Zachos, MS, CCC-SLP and Expert Guest Speakers
  • Northern Speech Services Online Courses:
  • Natural Language Acquisition In Autism ”Echolalia To Self-Generated Language-Level 1 Author: Marge Blanc, MA, CCC-SLP
  • Natural Language Acquisition In Autism “Echolalia To Self-Generated Language (Treatment) Level 2
    Author: Marge Blanc, MA, CCC-SLP
  • Natural Language Acquisition In Autism ”Echolalia To Self-Generated Language-Level 3
  • Author: Marge Blanc, MA, CCC-SLP


ASHA Courses:

  • From Echolalia to Self-Generated Language: Case Studies in Natural Language Acquisition
  • Authors: Marge Blanc, MA, CCC-SLP; Lillian Stiegler, PhD, CCC-SLP; Alexandria Zachos, MS, CCC-SLP
  • A Language Based Approach to Managing Echolalia
  • Author: Lillian Stiegler, PhD, CCC-SLP



  • Meaningful Speech YouTube Channel
  • Videos uploaded monthly with expert guest speaks on topics related to Gestalt Language Processing
  • “Empowering Communication through Echolalia” (November 20, 2021) Presenter: Adrienne Koenig



  • Two Sides of the Spectrum
    Episode 40 – Delayed Echolalia & Gestalt Language Processors with Alexandria Zachos
  • Speechie Side Up
    Feb. 20 2022- An Overview of Gestalt Language Processing and Natural Language Acquistion with Alexandria Zachos
  • Conversations in Speech Pathology
    Episode 006 and 016- Going Deep-Natural Language Acquisition and Autism with Marge Blanc
  • Talking with Tech
    Episode 204 – Alexandria Zachos: Supporting Spontaneous Speech in People Who Script
  • Innovative AAC Solutions
    Season 2, Episode 3 – GLP +AAC with Alexandria Zachos
  • SLP Happy Hour
    Episode 99- What Works For Echolalia and Play Based Sessions with Alexandria Zachos