What are typical restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests?
It's expected that we all have certain interests, preferences, routines, or rituals. When we enjoy something very much, we tend to want to do it or talk about it a lot. For example, someone fascinated about the universe may talk a lot about it, spend several hours a day researching its mysteries, and gain a significant level of knowledge about it. Also, when it comes to routines, most of us do our daily activities the same way and at the same times because we tend to feel more organized and functional that way.
When should I pay special attention to restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests?
It's not usual that some of us show an intense interest in a particular category of objects or activities, or engage in certain repetitive behaviors like sticking to only one game, or collecting or storing certain objects. These behaviors may be indicating a problem if they interfere with getting through our days, preventing us from interacting with other people, and if attempts to stop the behavior result in an intense discomfort.
There are some other signs we can pay attention to that may indicate a need to ask a trusted adult for help or seek out professional assistance:
- Repeatedly spinning objects, lining up toys, flapping hands in front of eyes.
- Frequently throwing objects without minding whether they hit someone.
- Feeling extreme distress at small changes? any change in the routine can trigger an intense reaction.
- Strong attachment to unusual objects, like brushes, stones, and hair bands.
- Extreme discomfort around loud noises, such as the vacuum cleaner or other household electrical appliances.
- Severe discomfort from bright lighting, specific textures of fabrics, intense smells, and tastes.
What can I do if I struggle with difficulties with restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests?
It can be hard and frustrating to deal with restricted and repetitive behaviors. Some of these behaviors may help us deal with distress, but they can sometimes leave us feeling worse. If you understand that you struggle with them, there are a few things you may try:
- Ask a trusted adult for help . Trusted adults are usually our caregivers, other family members, or someone else who is responsible for taking care of us. Let your trusted adults know about your difficulties. They can be helpful for assisting you and helping you get any additional help you may need.
- Talk to your teacher . Reaching out to your teacher can be helpful, too. Teachers usually can tell if we are having any difficulties that may be affecting us at school. Talking to them not only helps you understand your difficulty, but it can also inform them on things that can be done in the classroom or at school to help you with your difficulties.
- Try reducing the causes of your anxiety . If you are aware of what makes you more anxious or distressed, try thinking about ways you could reduce these things, called "triggers." For example, if loud noises at your house are a cause of distress, try asking your family to maintain a quieter environment.
- Organize a structured daily program . Try following the same routines throughout your days. If you know that there is something that may change, ask a trusted person for help to prepare for that.
- Reduce annoying sensory stimuli . Try to avoid places with noise and bright lighting, or wear soft-textured clothes.
If you have already tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems you are facing persist, it may be time to ask a trusted adult to seek out professional support.
Restricted and repetitive behaviors that are too frequent, intense, present in many different contexts, discrepant from those faced by others the same age, and that negatively interfere with our daily lives may indicate the possibility of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
What kind of professional support can be sought out?
It is not unusual for us to feel embarrassed, inadequate, or guilty when facing these behaviors. Although many of them are typical when we are young children, they could be a cause of worry should they persist. If you think you struggle with repetitive behaviors, don't wait too long to talk to a trusted adult or teacher. They can help you to seek an evaluation and support from a professional.
Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals, including occupational therapists, speech-language therapists, and mental health professionals who can help us when we are struggling with repetitive behaviors.
The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
Where to find more information
Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].
If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.
You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.