Language Development in Neurodivergent and Other Gestalt Language Processors

A young boy holds up two cards. One shows an apple and the other has the letter A.Presented by Marge Blanc
Dec. 7, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Held virtually; recorded and available through Jan. 11, 2024
Co-hosted by the Autism Societies of Minnesota and Greater Wisconsin

Member: $50
Non-Member: $60
Autistic Individual: $35

Ideal for: SLPs, OTs, PTs, teachers, support staff, parents/family members, autistic adults

Thank you to everyone who attended this workshop! The recording will be available through Jan. 7, 2024.

About the Workshop

Gestalt language processing (GLP) is one of the two types of understanding and using language. The other is analytic language processing (ALP), another name for what we have thought of as “typical language processing.” Each leads to natural language development, with these differences:

  • Analytic language development begins with single words. Single words are then combined to create short phrases, and then simple sentences, and eventually more complex sentences until a complete grammar system develops.
  • Gestalt language development begins with ‘chunks’ of language, also known as “scripts” or “delayed echolalia.” That is Stage 1. Each language chunk is a ‘gestalt’ and experienced as the sound track of a life experience. At Stage 2, chunks are made shorter, and some shorter chunks are combined with other shorter chunks to create new utterances. At Stage 3, chunks are made shorter still, and single words emerge. At Stage 4, single words are combined into short phrases and then simple sentences (just like they are for analytic language processors at a much earlier age). At Stages 5 and 6, sentences become more complex until a complete grammar system develops.

This presentation will prepare you to recognize gestalt language processors and feel confident that you understand the research underlying gestalt language development. You will learn how gestalt language development differs from analytic language development, how it naturally progresses through six stages, and how to support it in your clients and students. A case example will illustrate the value of language sampling and the principles of supporting gestalt language development.


Participants will be able to:

  • Outline the six stages of gestalt language development as compared with the stages of analytic language development
  • Describe the research that supports the use of Natural Language Acquisition (NLA) to elaborate and quantifying the stages of gestalt language development
  • Score a set of utterances produced by a child at Stages 1-4 of gestalt language development

About the PresenterHeadshot of Marge Blanc, a smiling woman with gray hair

Marge Blanc has been a Speech-Language Pathologist for 45 years, and reports that she has loved every minute of it! Marge met her first autistic client in 1994 when she was a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She applied the principles of gestalt language development she had learned from the research of Barry Prizant, Ann Peters, and colleagues — and they worked immediately!

Marge then conducted clinical research as part of her service-delivery at the Communication Development Center, the physically-supportive clinic she co-founded in Madison. Her research described gestalt language development in a wide variety of children, primarily autistic children, further detailing the findings of Prizant, Peters, and colleagues. Her elaboration and quantification of gestalt language development were published as Natural Language Acquisition on the Autism Spectrum: the Journey from Echolalia to Self-Generated Language in 2012, and first presented to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in 2014.

Since that time, Marge has been actively sharing the lessons learned about gestalt language processing through her book, webinars, courses with Northern Speech Services, Facebook Study Groups, and the website, Marge’s honorarium will be paid to the Communication Development Center to further its work.

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