What are typical restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests?

Infants are normally attached to favorite objects and engage in a number of repetitive rhythmic motor behaviors, like rocking and flapping. Young children show an insistence on certain toys, fairy tales and bedtime rituals. Preschool children exhibit more complex behaviors, like ritualization of daily activities, acting out the same thing over and over in pretend play, collecting or storing objects, etc. Some young boys, for instance, are fascinated with cars? they play with them many hours a day, ask questions and acquire a significant level of knowledge about them, recognize car brands in the streets as well as on printed paper, etc.


When should I be concerned with restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests?

Many children normally show an intense interest in a particular category of objects or activities and engage in certain repetitive behaviors like nail biting, sticking to one game, or collecting or storing certain objects.

Caregivers may be concerned if these behaviors interfere with daily living, preventing children from interacting with other children or exploring other activities, and if attempts to stop the behavior results in an explosive reaction.

Caregivers may also be concerned and should seek professional help if their child exhibits any or some of the following:

  • Repeatedly spinning objects, lining up toys, flapping hands in front of eyes.
  • Frequently throwing objects without minding whether they hit someone.
  • Extreme distress at small changes? any change in their routine could trigger a meltdown.
  • 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, particular smells, and tastes.


What can I do to help a child with difficulties with restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests?

Caregivers know their children best. If you are a caregiver, know that for some children, some behaviors like hand flapping are pleasant and can help them cope with new or stressful situations or channel better communication when they are frustrated. However, you can help your child if these behaviors are disruptive or dangerous. Here are a few things you may attempt:

  • Reduce potential causes of anxiety , maintain a quiet environment, speak in a low voice, and avoid interrupting him/her when totally absorbed in play.
  • Organize a structured daily program , follow the same route going to school and prepare the child for any change.
  • Reduce annoying sensory stimuli , eg, avoiding places with noise and bright lighting, let him/her wear soft-textured clothes.
  • Avoid interrupting the repetitive behaviors and punishing tantrums following a stressful event.
  • Utilize his/her restricted interests to better communicate with him/her , arrange playing with toys based on his/her intense interests, eg, dinosaurs, read stories about his/her favorite objects, eg, trains.

If you have already tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems your child is facing persist, it may be the moment to seek out professional support.

Repetitive behaviors that are too frequent, intense, present in many different contexts, discrepant from those faced by children the same age, and that negatively interfere with your child and family's daily lives may indicate the possibility of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).


What kind of professional support can I seek out for help?

It is not unusual that some caregivers feel embarrassed, inadequate, or guilty when facing these behaviors. Although many of the referred repetitive behaviors are typical for younger children, they could be a cause of worry should they persist. Support and guidance are available now. Communicate concerns during and between visits with your child's doctor.

Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Occupational therapists, speech-language therapists, and mental health professionals can help a child when they are struggling with repetitive behaviors. These professionals also work with caregivers so that they know how to support their child in need outside of therapy sessions.

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.



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