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What Is Gestalt Language Processing?

Many children use some form of gestalt language processing in early development. Around 75% to 85% of kids with autism are primarily gestalt language processors. Whether your child has autism or is struggling with language development, as a parent you want to help. It can feel overwhelming, and you may feel uncertain about where to turn. The good news is that there’s hope to strengthen their language learning skills. Read this guide on signs of Gestalt language processing and how you can assist with your child’s speech development. 

Gestalt Language Processing

What Is Gestalt Language Processing? Gestalt language processing is a type of language development that begins with learning large phrases. The phrases are later broken down for the comprehension of single words.

It’s common to see children struggle with expressive language. Words are less flexible for a gestalt language processor because they’re only understood in chunks. Children can’t break down sentences to express what they see. For example, if you change the format of a question the child won’t be able to associate the same meaning with it. 

Gestalt language learning mother and father on floor reading to daughter
Read More: 6 Autism Language Development Activities Ideas + FREE Printable

Gestalt language processors view the primary unit as a chunk of language. For example, ‘I’ll be back’ is one chunk instead of breaking up each word. Gestalt language processing is all about seeing metaphors. Children learn language in chunks like short phrases or whole sentences. They see a connection between scenarios and phrases. Non-Gestalt learners explore one word at a time. Gestalt language is common in autistic and hyperlexic children but neurotypical kids can also learn this way. 

Read More: Fun Language Learning Games for Kids

Signs Your Child Might Be a Gestalt Language Processor:

  • They mix up pronouns
  • They use scripts and echolalia
  • Inflexible language use
  • Language delays
  • They have autism 
  • They use long scripts of speech before single words
  • They use long strings of language that are difficult to understand
  • They’re musically inclined 
Read More: Does My Child Need Speech Therapy?

Echolalia & Gestalt Language Stages

What is Echolalia?

Echolalia is the delayed or immediate repetition of language. Children will copy what they hear but it isn’t necessarily intended to send a direct message to someone. While Echolalia can be communicative, it can be difficult to uncover the meaning behind the repeated phrases. 

What are the stages of Gestalt Language Processing?

Stage 1: EcholaliaThis stage involves the repetition of strings of language that children hear from others. It’s a way for them to practice linguistic skills and listen to the rhythm and intonation of speech.
Stage 2: Mitigated EcholaliaHere, the language that children have echoed starts blending with other chunks of language heard elsewhere. It’s a transition toward creating new, combined sentences.
Stage 3: Isolation of Single WordsAt this stage, children begin to recognize and isolate particular words from the chunks of repeated language. From this isolation, they start to combine these words into two-word phrases, marking the beginning of their independent sentence construction.
Stage 4: Self-generated GrammarIn the last stage, subject to individual learning rates, children start to create original sentences by applying self-generated grammar rules. As their understanding of language structure increases, they become more adept at formulating personalized expressions.
Gestalt language learning little boy reading a paper at a piano
Read more: Understanding Echolalia

Gestalt Language Processing Strengths

As parents of children who excel in Gestalt Language Processing, it’s important to recognize their signs of gestalt language processing learning style and adapt accordingly. These kids thrive when they have a clear grasp of the context and know what’s expected in a specific situation. To support their learning, consider the following tips:

  1. Encourage hands-on activities: Gestalt learners prefer to be actively engaged in their learning process, which means incorporating interactive and movement-based exercises could greatly benefit them.
  2. Provide context before details: To help them better understand new information, present the bigger picture first. Once they get the gist of it, they’ll have an easier time absorbing the details.
  3. Allow for multiple ways to process information: Remember that these children need to be able to verbalize, move, hear, and see the context. Consider using multimedia resources and real-life examples to cater to their diverse processing needs.

By understanding and accommodating the unique learning style of kids with Gestalt Language Processing abilities, you can help them succeed not only in grasping new concepts but also in retaining information, thanks to their often remarkable memory skills. With Goally’s specialized app and tablet, engaging your child in ways that suit their strengths becomes more manageable and effective.

Gestalt Language Processing Challenges

Gestalt language learners may have difficulty explaining how they arrive at an answer. Even if they understand the main idea, they might struggle to communicate details linearly. Fine motor activities and penmanship might be challenging as well. They may also struggle to learn new processes and require verbal or visual stimulation. 

Read More: What are speech blocks and stuttering blocks?

Hyperlexia and Gestalt Language Learning

If you’re a parent of a child with hyperlexia, you might often notice that your child’s learning style revolves around Gestalt Language Processing. These kids have a tendency to repeat entire scripts they’ve read or heard, focusing on strings of words instead of individual ones. For instance, while a non-gestalt learner can easily visualize a black cat, a gestalt learner might struggle to create such an image in their mind.

Best Parent-Approved AAC App:

A close-up image of an adult demonstrating a speech sound, featured on the best tablet for kids by Goally for AAC learning

Goally comes with an easy-to-use, fully customizable AAC device to help kids communicate. If you’re on a waitlist, this is the fastest way to get your child access to an AAC Talker and start communicating!

To help them grasp language more effectively, it’s essential to break down sentences into separate parts while applying them to different situations and contexts. By using scripts, your child can better understand rules, expectations, and interact in social settings, such as asking and answering questions or joining conversations. Emphasize the importance of learning through movement and play, and provide instructions in the first person, like “I will go to dance class.” By catering to the Gestalt Language Processing strengths of your child, you’ll support their growth and development more effectively – and Goally’s specialized tools can make it all the more manageable.

Read More: Does AAC Prevent Speech Development in Children?

Assisting Gestalt Language Processors

Notice common scenarios or settings in speech. Use gestures, gaze, and facial expressions to help them pick up clues. Listen to their language and try to understand their statements. They might answer your question with statements. Pay attention to any clues in their statements. 

You might ask them if they’d like some food. They could respond that cats love tuna. Children will often try to communicate using phrases from movies and will respond to questions in their way. Model, ‘I want food’ or ‘I don’t want food’ without demanding them to do so. 

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As your child develops new skills, you can increase the difficulty level of the tasks in the app to challenge and motivate them even further. This helps your child grow and progress at their own pace, while also keeping them engaged and excited about their development.

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Defining Gestalt Language Processing

Take your time to notice the signs of gestalt language and consider working with a speech pathologist for your child. Remember not to correct them, and instead try to understand what they’re saying. It’ll take time to help them deconstruct the chunks into individual sentences.  

FAQs About Gestalt Language Processing

What is Gestalt Language Processing?
Gestalt Language Processing is a learning style where individuals focus on understanding and processing entire chunks or strings of words rather than interpreting individual words within a context.

How can visual schedules help children with Gestalt Language Processing?
Visual schedules provide a clear, consistent framework for gestalt learners, allowing them to understand routines and expectations by presenting the whole picture in a visually appealing format.

How do emotional regulation apps assist gestalt learners?
Emotional regulation apps offer tools and strategies to help gestalt learners understand and manage their emotions, promoting better communication and social integration.

How can rewards benefit children with Gestalt Language Processing?
Reward systems motivate gestalt learners to break down complex concepts into smaller parts, achieving goals, and reinforcing positive behaviors that facilitate their learning process.

Are there specific techniques to support a gestalt learner's language development?
For gestalt learners, techniques like breaking down sentences, using scripts for various situations, encouraging movement-based learning, and providing first-person instructions can enhance their language development.

This post was originally published on 10/25/2022. It was updated on 06/20/2024.

Article by

Emily is a seasoned blog writer for Goally, leveraging her extensive background in child psychology and special education to provide valuable insights and resources for parents. Her commitment to understanding and addressing the unique needs of these children, combined with her expertise in educational strategies, makes her a credible and empathetic voice for families.

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Sponsored by - Goally