1. Parenting
    2. Autism
    3. Repetitive Behaviour in your Child



    Repetitive Behaviour in your Child

    Children with autism may show repetitive behavior. This could be a repetitive movement such as rocking and twirling, hand flapping, and spinning. Children may also be resistant to change and new things. Discuss, share and ask your queries here to understand your child better and help him/her out! ... more

    • Team ParentCircle
    • 478
    • 6
    • Dec 6 2018


    Kavita Mahesh Aug 30 2019

    How will be differentiate between repetitive behaviour associated with autism from that of restlessness or ADHD? My 4 year old is very restless and keeps moving forward and backward for long period of time despiting constant warnings to stop. I am slightly worried!

    Kavita Mahesh Sep 4 2019

    @Kavita Mahesh ear parent, your worry is understandable. However, there are a lot of differences between repetitive behaviour in autism and restlessness as displayed in ADHD. Autism is characterized by deficits in 3 areas of functioning: apart from repetitive movements (and restricted interests), children with autism also display problems in speech and communication as well as in social interaction (which means that children with autism are usually not able to make eye contact or hold a meaningful conversation with others). There is also a strong desire to maintain routines and sameness and a resistance to change. Imaginative or make-believe play is virtually absent. On the other hand, in ADHD the child may not be able to focus and concentrate on any task and may additionally display impulsive behaviours (inability to be in control of oneself and one's bodily movements). Restlessness by itself does not indicate either of these two conditions.
    There are a few Qs you could ask yourself with regard to your child's restless behaviour:
    1. Is your child able to focus/concentrate on tasks that are within his skill level?
    2. Is your child exposed to nature and outdoor play (free or unstructured play) everyday?
    3. Does your child have limited screen time? (1 hour or less per day on an average)
    4. Does your child have friends and play with them (at school or home)?
    If the answer to all these Qs is yes, your child's restlessness may not be due to autism or ADHD. But if you are concerned after reading these questions, kindly take your child to a mental health professional in your city for an evaluation. All the best!

    Kavita Mahesh Sep 13 2019

    @Kavita Mahesh Thanks to your expert advice Team PC. I will pass on this information to my sister. I have seen my nephew continuously swing back and forth and he gets very upset when asked to stop. So I can understand Kavita's concern.

    Shalini Thodge Aug 13 2019

    My sister's 3 year-old is autistic. Lately he has developed this habit of repeatedly fondling with his private parts. We are a little concerned. My sister has not shared it with anyone else, yet!

    Shalini Thodge Aug 21 2019

    @Shalini Thodge Dear reader, it can be difficult to handle fondling behaviour of a child with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, a child with ASD can be taught the difference between public and private body parts. Firstly, it is important to use correct names for these parts- including vulva, vagina, penis, chest, breasts, etc. Secondly, teach the child when its appropriate to be naked versus clothed. Use picture books, sing songs (heads, shoulders, knees, and toes), or use toys such as dolls. Have the child paste pictures of different situations when its okay to be naked- such as during bath or while swimming. Then you can start talking about what things are okay to do in public, and what is only meant to be done in private (such as, shutting the door when you pee).
    Typically-developing children also have a natural need of exploring their genitals. But with your child with ASD, it is important to understand his sensory needs. This will make it easier for his parents to give his outlets for her needs. For example, the child can be given a stuffed animal or a textured toy to keep his hands busy and to satisfy the sensory need of touch. The sensory need to touch has been there for some time, so he will require multiple cues before she starts to reach for the toy herself. Other activities include colouring, using blocks, and making puzzles, all of which can additionally help to take his mind off inappropriate touching.
    However, the one thing his parents would need more than anything is patience. Children with ASD take their own time in processing things and not every solution will work for every child.

    Dr. Meghna Singhal May 8 2019

    A majority of children with autism also have sleep problems, which adds to the challenges that parents of such children face. Their sleep problems include difficulty falling and staying asleep. These problems compound other difficulties that children with autism face, such as repetitive behaviours and poor social skills. Children with autism who have sleep difficulties may also display more hyperactive behaviours and may get easily distracted than those who sleep well.
    How can children with autism who have compromised sleep be helped? Parents can help by establishing sleep routine for their child. A sleep routine is a series of steps, each of which has to be completed before proceeding to the next. In children with autism, visual schedules can be employed to teach bedtime routine. A visual schedule is a set of pictures or photographs that shows what an activity entails. This can be made and put up in the bedroom, at a height that will enable the child to view each item. The parent can begin by choosing one cue to let the child know that it is time to use his schedule and use this cue consistently. For example: time for bedwhats next? Initially the child will require prompting to use the schedule. The parent could stand behind the child and physically guide him to the schedule. The child should be able to manipulate the schedule independently, such as checking the items off the checklist or moving pictures on the schedule.
    Sample checklist:
    Change into nightclothes
    Use the bathroom
    Brush teeth
    Read a book
    Get in bed
    Go to sleep

    Dr. Meghna Singhal Dec 24 2018

    While children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) like following set routines, sometime a change in routine or unexpected event is inevitable. Here are 4 ways in which parents or carers of children with ASD can prepare them to handle changes in a better manner:
    Find out about and describe the change. Try to find out as many details about the change or new event, and describe it to the child using simple, clear language. For example, for a class trip to the zoo, the child can be told about the date of visit to the zoo, the mode of transport, the names of animals and birds theyll be seeing, the teachers who would be accompanying them, and the snacks they would be eating.
    Use visual supports. Using pictures of the things or people involved in the change would also help the child understand what to expect. For example, for going on a holiday, the parent could show the child pictures of an airport, an aeroplane, the inside of an aeroplane, seat belts, as well as the destination- including the home stay or hotel, pictures of the major tourist spots, etc. A visual time table can also be made and explained to the child.
    Planned visits. Try to make the child familiar with the new place, such as a new school, by making as many visits to it before they start. You can enlist the help of new teachers in making this transition by taking photos of the teachers, and new staff, and giving them to the child. Create an anxiety plan that they can remember to use- this might include having colour pens that they can use to draw what theyre feeling, or doing relaxation exercises.
    Using supports such as timer and calendar. Using a sand or manual timer can help children with ASD cope with school break times, when there is typically high levels of noise and chaos. Using a calendar with the event date marked in red could be used to help the child count down to that day.
    All these methods could help the child with ASD become prepared to handle the change involved.

    Dr. Meghna Singhal Apr 29 2019

    @Dr. Meghna Singhal Thank you Dr. Meghna for your insights. It was indeed very helpful. My nephew who has Autism always wants his mom around him and though she prepares him for any place beforehand, he cannot stay there alone without her. My cousin also feels bad when she leaves him. What can be done?

    Team ParentCircle Apr 8 2019

    @Team ParentCircle Puberty is indeed a tough time for an autistic child. My son has Asperger's. He is excellent at maths but his language skills are not up to the mark. He is 22 now and is doing his masters in maths and a lovely child. But, when he was 13 he would have these really violent bouts of throwing stuff at me. Initially I too would get angry and agitated. But with the help of our therapist, husband and in-laws I made a plan to distract him whenever I could see signs of him becoming cranky and impatient. I started occupying him with long math puzzles and he would enjoy them. He would get slightly irritated at times, but the aggression gradually reduced.

    Team ParentCircle Dec 10 2018

    Hi Team,
    My daughter is 3.5 years old and has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has this odd habit of moving forward and backward when ever she is not occupied with something. When we ask her to stop, she gives a blank stare and continues with her movement. I find it very difficult to stop. Please tell me what I can do? How can I help her stop repeating the movement? Please help

    Team ParentCircle Dec 26 2018

    @Team ParentCircle Dear parent
    It must be quite confusing dealing with the repetitive movements in your child with autism.However, repetitive movements (and sometimes repetitive speech) are a common occurrence in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). These repetitive movements could be rocking, twirling, moving back and forth, hand flapping, spinning, etc. and are referred to as stimming. Stimming could occur due to the following reasons: a) when the child is overstimulated by factors such as bright lights, noises, smells, etc., b) when the child is feeling anxious, due to a change on routine or due to uncertainty over what comes next, or c) the child finds the movement enjoyable. Finding the reason for the stimming usually helps in determining what to do about it. Telling the child to stop wont often work, but you could try the following:
    1. If the child is overstimulated, try to cut down on the stimuli in the child's environment. For example, bring the child to a familiar place, or if that's not possible, give her her favourite toy, or blanket, use noise-cancelling headphones, and stay with the child to help her calm down.
    2. If the child is feeling stressed due to a change in routine, she may benefit from a visual schedule, which includes a picture of the activity and a time it will occur. These schedules help children know what to expect and in turn reduce anxiety, especially when they are transitioning from a high-preference activity to one they don't enjoy. Social stories and meditation are other great techniques for helping a child relieve anxiety.
    3. If the child is performing the movements out of pleasure, it usually helps to incorporate them in a game the child can play. For example, moving back and forth could be incorporated in a game of skipping rope or hopping between 2-3 buckets lined up in a row.
    All the best!