Working with toddlers and early learners who are struggling to find their voice is important work for parents, therapists and teachers!

One aspect of communication that you may work on is verbal speech. In the behavioral field you may hear the term echoic. An echoic is one of the verbal operants that B.F. Skinner addressed in his book Verbal Behavior (1957). An echoic can be defined as repeating what is heard – like an echo- usually immediately. Work on echoics can help a learner say many different functional words. Echoics can also be worked on to systematically address saying different sounds and syllable shapes. 

As parents, we often do this naturally with our children when we model first sounds and words like “Ma-ma,” “Da-da,” “Uh-oh.” Sometimes it can be tricky to think of other simple words to work on -especially if your little one is not imitating you verbally right away. 

I’ve developed a FREE list of one and two syllable words to use as a guide for parents and therapists working on early language development skills so you can provide systematic language instruction with ease. Simply enter your email below, and the PDF will be sent to you.

When I begin working with a new student in speech therapy, I assess the student’s current echoic repertoire so I know where to begin with expressive language activities.

There are many ways to assess a student’s ability to verbalize when they are limited verbally. One of my favorite assessments is the Early Echoic Skills Assessment ( EESA) from the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program ( Sundberg 2008) . This was created by Barbara E. Esch PhD CCC-SLP/ BCBA.

Once I have a repertoire of sounds a learner can say, I can develop functional and motivating targets to address in therapy.

It is important for therapists (and parents) to note that target speech words should be chosen after analyzing student need, skill and motivation. A great two syllable word that is often motivating for little ones is “Cookie.”

I often work on new echoic targets in therapy sessions. Once they are mastered, I put them in a maintenance folder for the rest of the educational team to practice on with our shared student. I have a folder for each day of the week. Once a target has met criterion, it is moved to the maintenance folder. I train the team on how to work on the maintenance echoic targets. This system has proved to be very helpful for my students! It gives them embedded practice with speech sounds, words and phrases.

Enter your name and email address below to receive my FREE Echoic List of one and two syllable words to begin working on with your child or speech therapy student today!

  • Skinner B.F. Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts; 1957.
  • Sundberg, Mark. (2008) VB-MAPP. Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program: a language and social skills assessment program for children with autism or other developmental disabilities. Concord, CA; AVB Press

Echoic Word Guide

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  1. Sandi on May 22, 2019 at 12:14 am

    Thank you for supplying these fabulous resources!

    • abaspeech on May 22, 2019 at 11:34 am

      You are so welcome!

      • Dr. Dorothy on August 11, 2019 at 3:12 pm

        Thank you for saving me time to work efficiently.

        • Rosemarie Griffin on August 11, 2019 at 3:45 pm

          So glad this is helpful info!

  2. Kathleen Shipos on May 22, 2019 at 12:21 am

    Thank you!

    • abaspeech on May 22, 2019 at 11:33 am

      Glad this is helpful information!

  3. JiSu on February 27, 2020 at 1:23 am

    Thank you so much! These fantastic resources are very helpful for my kids!

    • Rosemarie Griffin on February 27, 2020 at 3:19 pm

      So happy to hear that!

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