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Gestalt Language Processing

Understanding and Supporting A Gestalt Language Processor

As part of our continued celebration of Better Hearing & Speech Month, Wolf’s wonderful Speech Language Pathologist, Katy Orlowski, dives into the language learning style of Gestalt Language Processing. 

As an SLP, my favorite part of the job has always been figuring out someone’s communication style and helping them to connect with others in a way that is true to themselves. That is the reason that I have been learning all I can about Gestalt Language Processing (GLP) for the past several years.  

What is Gestalt Language Processing?

Gestalt Language Processing is a description of how many people learn language. It is not a diagnosis and it is not a disorder.  

What is a gestalt? 

In language, a gestalt is a multi-word “chunk” that a speaker hears, stores, and uses as a whole, before having knowledge or awareness of its internal structure. For example, a child may use a phrase they learned such as “To Infinity and Beyond!” every time they jump off the couch without knowing the individual words “to”, “infinity”, “and”, and “beyond”.  This is also called delayed echolalia.  

A gestalt language processor, or someone who learns language through GLP, acquires language in chunks, which they can then learn to break down and then recombine later. This is different from the more common analytical language processing (ALP) style which is when someone acquires single words as units and then combines them into longer phrases. 

Although gestalt language processing is NOT a disorder, many Complex Learners with a language delay who are gestalt language processors can get “stuck” at the whole gestalt stage.  This results in much of their communication being delayed echolalia, or the repetition of words or phrases they’ve heard without knowing the individual words. Delayed echolalia is a valid form of communication. It is always meaningful, even if it takes us some detective work to figure out the meaning!

How do I know if my child is a gestalt language processor?

You can ask your trusty Speech Language Pathologist!  At Wolf, we are trained in or learning about Natural Language Acquisition which is a framework developed by Marge Blanc to help people move from delayed echolalia to self-generated speech.  In addition, your child’s SLP will be able to provide you with detailed examples of what you can do at home to best support your Complex Learners’ communication style. 

As a parent of a Complex Learner, you want to do all you can to support your child’s growth and development across the board – including when it comes to language. By understanding your child’s language learning style and their needs, you’re becoming better prepared to support them when it comes to communication!

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