Echolalia can be immediate (repeating what you’ve just said) or delayed (repeating something they’ve heard earlier, for example, in a movie).
This repeated language can often happen and be out of context, and it’s difficult to tell if the person is using this meaningfully or if this is repetitive sensory behaviour.
It is important to understand that echolalia is a stepping stone to flexible language. One strategy you can use with someone with echolalia is using Sentence Stems.
Instead of asking yes or no questions, try using ‘sentence stems’ to help them give a meaningful response Prompting with “I want ____.” and waiting for a response.
This requires a lot of wait time and that they have the language needed to respond. If they don’t have the vocabulary to answer, you may have to pair this sentence stem system with a visual support. Showing them the options through visual icons on a communication board, or showing them real objects (e.g. the food or drink options on offer) will help them to understand their choices and respond using either speech or pointing.
You can find visual communication boards here.