ASD and Repetitive Behaviour


Leonardo Rocker

ASD and Repetitive Behaviour

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are lifelong developmental disabilities characterised by marked difficulties in social interaction, impaired communication, restricted and repetitive interests/behaviours, and sensory sensitivities.

It is called a spectrum disorder as each child may be affected in a different way. The severity of the disorder can range from mild to severe, and includes Autism, Asperger’s syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not otherwise Specified.

Repetitive behaviours are a core component of the diagnosis of autism, and they form an important part of early identification.

Typical Development of Repetitive Behaviours

  • Infants - often demonstrate repetitive behaviours including kicking, waving, banging, twirling, bouncing and rocking. These behaviours however, reduce after 12 months.
  • 24 – 36 months - compulsive like behaviours including preference for sameness begin to emerge.
  • 4 years - decrease in all repetitive behaviours. By the time a child reaches school age there are usually relatively few repetitive behaviours to be seen.

Repetitive Behaviours in a child diagnosed with an ASD

The amount and frequency of repetitive behaviours seen in a child diagnosed with ASD are significantly higher than that seen in children without an ASD diagnosis. There are also differences in the types of repetitive behaviour demonstrated in autism and typical development. Young children with autism are more likely to engage in

  • body rocking
  • finger flicking
  • hand flapping
  • mouthing
  • unusual posturing

Recent studies have shown that a combination of therapies that aim to increase receptive language and improve social skills, can reduce the occurrence of repetitive behaviours.

Need more information?

Further Reading


How to Navigate an ASD Diagnosis

View article references

  • les: Honey, E., McConachie, H., Randle, Val., Shearer, H., Le Couteur, A. S. (2008).
  • One-year Change in Repetitive Behaviours in Young Children with Communication Disorders Including Autism. Journal Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 1439–1450. Honey, E., Leekham, S., McConachie, H.. (2007).
  • Repetitive Behaviours and Play in Typically Developing Children and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1107–1115.

back to top