Thursday, February 29, 2024

From Scripts to Spontaneous Speech: An Overview of Gestalt Language Processing

 What is Gestalt Language Processing?

Gestalt Language Processing (GLP) is a way that language develops which begins with longer “chunks” of language, sometimes referred to as scripts, and results in the creation of spontaneous novel utterances. Though GLP is not specific to persons on the Autism spectrum, many individuals with ASD are gestalt language processors. This is likely why echolalia, the repetition of utterances produced by others, is commonly seen in Autistic individuals. Before language is broken down and mitigated into spontaneous utterances, it is produced as whole “chunk” gestalts. 

Gestalt Language Processing vs. Analytic Language Processing

When considering how young children acquire language, many people think of or are familiar with the concept of Analytic Language Processing. Analytic Language Processing is the acquisition of language that starts with sounds and single words which are combined into longer and more complex sentences as language develops. Think of how a baby learns to identify a ball by saying “ball”, then expands this to become “mommy ball” which eventually develops to be “Mommy is holding the ball.” While the early stages of gestalt and analytic language processing look quite different, the end result is the same: self-generated, flexible, and spontaneous speech.

What is Natural Language Acquisition?

Natural Language Acquisition (NLA) is a description of language acquisition in Gestalt Language Processors. It describes the process in stages, from scripted gestalts to creation of novel utterances. NLA is based on the work and research of Marge Blanc, Ann Peters, and Barry Prizant. The framework of NLA separates gestalt language development into 6 stages which assist parents and professionals in understanding and supporting children’s language development.

Signs of Gestalt Language Processing

Wondering if your child or patient could be a Gestalt Language Processor? Gestalt Language Processors may share some or all of the following characteristics. The following list provides clues which are helpful in determining how a child processes language (gestalt vs. analytic).

  • Your child uses some single words, but can’t put them into sentences

  • Your child uses rich intonation when speaking

  • Your child produces long, unintelligible strings of language

  • Your child uses long scripts and may repeat language heard from TV shows or songs

How to Support a GLP

  • Respond to their attempts to communicate, even if you don’t understand. This can be as simple as smiling, nodding, repeating what you heard, or simply saying “I hear you.” 

  • Become a detective. Listen to the child’s language, write it down, and think about what they could be trying to communicate.

  • Provide language models.
    Speak naturally and use rich intonation to narrate daily life. Some especially helpful phrases start with words like “let’s…” “I’m.” “it’s…” or “where…”

  • Follow your child’s lead. Support their interests and model language as you go.

  • Find a speech-language pathologist. An SLP knowledgeable in GLP and NLA can help support your child’s developing language and provide further education and support.

How we can help

In conclusion, fostering effective communication and language development is crucial for every child's growth. At Building Blocks Therapy Services, our dedicated therapists are trained in innovative approaches like Gestalt Language Processing to support your child's unique journey. If you're ready to empower your child's
communication skills and witness the transformative impact of our personalized therapies, take the first step today. If you are interested in learning more please visit or call (616) 570-925. Your child deserves the best, and at Building Blocks Therapy Services, we're here to make it happen.


  • Meaningful Speech Course by Alexandria Zachos, MS, CCC-SLP

  • Communication Development Center by Marge Blanc, MA, CCC-SLP

  • Gestalt Language Processing Handbook by Kathryn Arnold, MCD, CCC-SLP

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