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for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy,
Mental Retardation & Multiple Disabilities
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Specific Concerns

Many of the problems of the younger child may continue into middle childhood; and should be managed in the same way. A behaviour which is often present since early childhood but may come to the parents and teachers notice as the child grows are stereotypies.


Stereotypies or repetitive actions are a hallmark of Autism, though they may also be found in individuals with other developmental disorders. They may be very varied in the way they present in an individual with Autism and some of the common types are

• Motor stereotypy- hand flapping, finger flicking, body rocking, toe walking
• Verbal stereotypy-immediate or delayed echolalia (repeating what has been heard, often mimicking the tone and rhythm of speech)
• Sensory –sniffing, looking at things from the corner of one’s eyes
• Complex- including inflexible adherence to routines, playing with toys in an unusual way

Stereotypes are thought to help the individual by providing a sensory calming influence on their behaviour; they start before the age of three years and do not get worse when the child is tired. As a parent you may feel that your child’s stereotypically activity is ‘getting in the way’ of your child learning something new, or is socially awkward when you in a public place.

The best way to manage stereotypies is to

1. Do not bring attention to them
2. Consider if there is a more socially acceptable replacement for the repetitive activity.
3. Allow your child the stereotypy especially in the privacy of your home
4. Consider rewards when stereotypical behaviours are not used in public


1. www.nationalautismresources.com
2. www.autismpeaks.com; the website provides a number of toolkits for parents including the Sleep Toolkit and the Challenging Behaviour toolkit by the Autism Treatment Network.
3. ACT NOW Fact Sheet 17; Dietary Issues and Autism by Prof Bruce Tonge and Dr Avril Brereton
4. Autism Network Journal Dec 2010, Vol 5; Issue 3 Understanding and dealing with eating difficulties in individuals with ASD.
5. Cunningham AB, Schreibman L. Stereotypy in Autism: The Importance of Function. Res Autism Spectr Disord. 2008;2(3):469-79.

  Autism Spectrum Disorders or ASD is commonly called Autism Neuro- typical: A term used for people who do not have Autism or ASD  
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