Repetitive behaviors in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder

Repetitive Behaviors In Children Diagnosed With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Repetitive behaviors in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder

Writer: Jessica Robles, BCBA

Repetitive behaviors and limited interests and activities represent the most important criteria for diagnosing autism spectrum disorder, which was issued by the American Psychiatric Association in its fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Developmental Disorders (DSM-5).

The emergence of repetitive behaviors is often a source of concern for parents who have a child with autism spectrum disorder. Therefore, there are many terms used when describing these behaviors, and they may be referred to by specialists as “stereotyped repetitive behaviors.” These behaviors refer to the repetition of physical movements or repetition of sounds and words heard that have no purpose.

We may notice that some call these behaviors “self-stimulating behaviors” or “self-reinforcing behaviors.” However, when using these terms, they can be misleading and misplaced because they can indicate that the function of this behavior is self-reinforcement, and this is not what we want to talk about in this case.

All individuals may engage in some form of repetitive behavior such as, Shake the leg when sitting and wrap the hair around the fingers. Clicking the pen repeatedly. However, children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder often exhibit some of these repetitive behaviors. Despite countless repetitive behaviors, However, there are some forms of repetitive behaviors that commonly appear in children with autism disorder, Of which:

  • Hand flapping.
  • Hit some body parts on the wall.
  • Rotation.
  • Speed ​​back and forth repeatedly.

A child with autism disorder may work on lining up cars or dolls in an organized manner. Instead of playing with it, he will clap or flap his hands repeatedly as a result of feeling excited and improving. These behaviors can be a way to calm the child or a way to express his frustration.

When should we worry about repetitive behaviors?

Behaviors may become repetitive Children diagnosed with autism have a source of anxiety when the behavior itself is a source of distraction for the child. Or it may interfere with the child’s educational opportunities and daily activities, Or it may be a source of nuisance or if the behavior poses a danger to himself or the people around him.

Example, Child Ahmed is more preoccupied with flapping his hands than paying attention in the classroom, and here this behavior represents a problem, as this behavior represents the child not benefiting from the educational process. Also, the behavior could pose a danger to the individual or others if the individual uses physical force or extreme violence.

Example, The child spins around himself excessively to the point of vomiting regularly and continuously. If any of these situations occur, the people present must intervene to prevent this behavior.

How can we stop repetitive behaviors and what is the appropriate intervention?

We must remember that each case is different from the other, Therefore, before intervention, it is important to conduct the necessary assessments by a certified behavior analyst and include the necessary plan for repetitive behavior. Therefore we must follow these recommendations:

  • You must contact an American Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), who has sufficient experience in working with children with autism disorder, especially in providing treatment plans for repetitive behaviors.
  • The Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will observe and observe behavior and work to evaluate the target behavior and when and how this behavior will occur. It will also determine the impact of this behavior on the child’s daily life and discuss with the parents and specialists working with the child the importance of this behavior and how to deal with it.
  • If the behavior requires change, The BCBA Certified Behavior Analyst will work to implement the intervention with proactive strategies by creating a change in the prior stimulus, as these strategies can be used to reduce or limit the recurrence of this behavior. A BCBA will provide recommendations and instructions to parents or professionals working with the child to implement these strategies when the target behavior occurs.
  • The BCBA will work to include alternative behaviors that help the child engage in them instead of engaging in repetitive behaviors. Alternative behaviors satisfy the same needs as repetitive behaviors.
  • The occupational therapist must work with the Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to reduce or limit the frequency of this behavior so that the child can focus when performing tasks of daily activities.
  • Intervention and appropriate behavioral support are among the most important treatments based on the behavioral approach, which relies on the principles of applied behavior analysis, in reducing repetitive behaviors in individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disorders.


How to Know When a Child’s Repetitive Behaviors Are a Problem – 360 Behavioral Health