Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Palilalia Vocal Tic

If you’ve ever watched the tv show The Middle you’re familiar with Brick (the youngest child) and his quirky way of repeating his own words in a whisper. For example, he’ll say, “I’m going outside to play.” Then whisper, “to play.” I’ve always been fond of this character, maybe because my youngest son also whispers after making a statement.

Until this past week, I thought this pattern of speech was unique to my son and this character, but on a recent episode of The middle they outed this behavior as a “vocal tic.” So of course I ran to the web to see what I could find and sure enough there’s a vocal tic called Palilalia that describes this behavior. I also found a lot of other parents describing the same exact whisper in their kids. Don’t you just love the web!

Palilalia is described as being the involuntary repetition or utterance of the same word or phrase, often the speaker’s own words. It’s often associated with other conditions such as Tourette’s, Parkinson’s, obsessive compulsive disorder and autism. I imagine my son was using this behavior to cope with his anxiety as he was also showing other signs of OCD during this time. I think these kinds of ritualistic behaviors helped ease his anxieties. Thankfully this speech pattern has almost disappeared, only popping up every once and a while.

It’s interesting to me because my oldest son also had speech issues. When he was in preschool he developed a serious stutter and had to see a speech therapist to overcome it. Even though the therapist at the time thought he would have it to some degree as an adult, he eventually outgrew it.

I have to admit, no matter what you call it, I’ve always thought my son’s “whisper” was kinda cute. I’m sure I’ll miss it when it too disappears forever.

(Sorry no video clip of the actual whisper, if you want to see it, look on YouTube and you’ll see lots of Brick’s whispers. I was trying to avoid copyright issues and used only clips provided by ABC.)


  1. Thanks for this. I have just notice this in our 8 yr old son.He's a big giant puzzle and has always had one kind of tick or OCD habit or another.I guess this is his current one. :0)