NLA Stage 3

Stage 3 marks the shift from echolalia to self-generated language, and is nothing short of quietly dramatic. It is often so subtle that it can also be overlooked, unless communication partners are aware that it is about to happen, but the shift is profound. For GLPs, this stage is absolutely natural and seems almost matter-of-fact, but for communication partners, the change in how a GLP sounds seems dramatic. Intonationally-rich utterances at Stage 2 that sounded quite good to listeners suddenly give way to single word + single word mini-comments that may sound stilted, and even childish. Not to worry! The stiltedness is because GLPs are actually selecting and finding words ‘from scratch’ for the first time, and they are not used to it! All-of-a-sudden there is no ‘voice in the back of their heads’ to echo; no intonational richness to support their speech; just a word to retrieve — and then another word! But it will get easier, we promise! This fledgling vocabulary-building is imperative to the rest of the process.

It helps to remember how it is for little analytic language processors. ALPs spend a long time at a word + word language development stage when they are very young, and, we are not surprised, or worried, or in a hurry. Nor are we concerned that little ALPs stumble over their brand new words. We need to be the same for our GLPs!

There is a natural lack of fluency at this building block stage of gestalt language development, so don’t be surprised. Our GLPs sounded so fluent before, however, so we are surprised. We are often literally stopped in our tracks.

GLPs are typically stopped in their tracks too! For a different reason: it is so empowering to be choosing your words for the first time. So, let’s take a hint from them: it’s time for all of us to pause. We can support our GLPs best by acknowledging the naturalness of Stage 3. Even though word + word constructions sound a little tenuous — and GLPs can trip over their own words — we understand, because they just found them in their brains moments before!

So after the video conversations you will hear in this thread, please check Stage 3 Supports in our next topic thread, where we will partner with you as you partner with your child.


The conversation turns to Stage 3 stories, emphasizing the ‘slowing down’ that happens when the thoughtfulness of Stage 3 emerges. Always led by the child, arrival at Stage 3 truly is slowing down because the child is – for the first time – formulating an utterance. Listen to these stories which highlight the word + word Stage 3 vignettes that mark this profound change in a GLP’s language development process.


Ereeni‘s extended story of a middle school student illustrates that Stage 3 is a process beyond the moment that Marge and Nellie spoke of. Stage 3 can be very short or very long, and our role is to be with the student as long as pre-grammar word + word formulation is important. Older students need more Stage 3 time!


The conversation continues to Stage 3 with older students, and how older students find this to be completely ‘age appropriate,’ because, as a cognitive process they have never done before, it is a cognitive process. Take a listen!