What Is Gestalt Language Processing?

Enrichment Therapies

February 14, 2024

Dad and daughter playing

By: Kelsey Phillips, M.A., CCC-SLP

There are two ways children learn language. Children are either analytic language processors or they are gestalt language processors. It is important to know how your child learns and processes language in order to provide an environment that supports language development.

What Is Analytic Language Processing?

Analytic language processing is what people often call “typical” language development. A child learns language in small units. They begin to use words, then phrases, and build up to sentences using correct grammar. 

What Is Gestalt Language Processing (GLP)?

Gestalt language processing is a form of language development where a child learns language in gestalts or chunks rather than single words. Many children with autism spectrum disorder are gestalt language processors; however, neurotypical children can also begin acquiring language as gestalts. You may have heard gestalts referred to as “scripts” or “echolalia.” 

What Are the Characteristics of GLP?

Gestalt language processors echo speech previously heard. They often use strings of language repeated from a variety of sources, including movies, caregivers, television shows, and songs (e.g., “Chase is on the case,” “to infinity and beyond”). The child may present with immediate echolalia (e.g., repeating a phrase that was just heard) or delayed echolalia (e.g., repeating a phrase from a movie they watched days ago). 

For example, you may ask your child, “Are you thirsty?” when they appear to want something to drink. Your child may then use the question “Are you thirsty?” each time they want to request a drink of water. The child knows that using this phrase will get them a drink; however, they may not understand what the individual words in the question mean. 

In other children, their speech may not be understood by others even though it appears that they are communicating. They use appropriate intonation and people might say, “They are speaking gibberish.”

How ETLC Helps Support Children Who Are GLP

It is important to note that children who communicate using gestalts are still communicating. There is meaning behind their messages even if we do not know what that intent is. It is important to find the meaning behind a child’s gestalt and assist them in reaching the point of self-generated language where they can break down these larger units into meaningful words.

At Enrichment Therapy and Learning Center, we have speech-language pathologists trained in gestalt language processing. If you believe your child is a gestalt language processor, we can help foster their language development. Give us a call!

info@enrichmenttherapies.com

740 Community Drive, Unit A 

North Liberty, IA 52317 

319-626-2553 

infodm@enrichmenttherapies.com

5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300 

Johnston, IA 50131 

515-419-4270

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