Children repeating unwarranted actions consistently
Repetitive behaviors can be managed by strategies such as replacement behaviors, identifying triggers and implementing schedules.
When a child engages in repetitive behaviors repeatedly, it can be challenging for them to engage in other activities, and it may interfere with their overall functioning. This behavior is commonly seen in individuals with autism spectrum disorder, but it can also be present in other developmental or neurological conditions. If you are a parent who is concerned about your child's repetitive behaviors, read on to learn more about the causes and strategies for addressing this behavior.
Types of Repetitive Behaviors
Different types of repetitive behaviors that children may exhibit include:
Hand flapping: A child with autism may flap their hands repeatedly in front of their face or body, especially when they are excited or anxious.
Rocking back and forth: An individual with autism may rock their body back and forth while sitting or standing, sometimes for extended periods of time.
Spinning objects: A child with autism may become fixated on spinning objects, such as a wheel or a top, and repeatedly spin the object for long periods of time.
Echolalia: An individual with autism may repeat words or phrases that they have heard, either immediately or later on. This can be a way for them to communicate or self-soothe.
Repetitive routines: A child with autism may become upset or anxious if their daily routines are disrupted. They may insist on following the same sequence of activities in the same order every day.
Narrow interests: An individual with autism may develop a narrow and intense interest in a particular subject, such as trains or dinosaurs, and focus on it to the exclusion of other topics.
Obsessive behaviors: An individual with autism may develop obsessive behaviors, such as lining up objects or arranging them in a specific pattern.
Causes of Repetitive Behaviors
There is no single cause of repetitive behaviors, but they can be associated with a variety of factors, including:
Neurological conditions such as autism spectrum disorder and Tourette's syndrome
Sensory processing issues
Anxiety or stress
Strategies for Parents
Use Replacement Behaviors: One approach to addressing repetitive behaviors is to teach the child alternative, more appropriate behaviors. For example, if the child repeatedly flaps their hands, they can be taught to squeeze a stress ball or engage in deep breathing exercises instead.
Identify Triggers: Repetitive behaviors may be triggered by certain situations or sensory stimuli. Identifying these triggers and working to remove or modify them can help reduce the occurrence of repetitive behaviors.
Implement a Schedule: Providing structure and predictability can be helpful in reducing repetitive behaviors. Implementing a schedule for the child can help them understand what is happening next and provide a sense of control.
Use Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool in encouraging positive behaviors. Praise and reward the child for engaging in alternative behaviors or for reducing the frequency of repetitive behaviors.
Sensory Integration Therapy: Sensory integration therapy can help individuals with sensory processing issues by providing them with specific sensory input that they find calming and organizing.
In summary, while repetitive behaviors may be challenging for children, there are strategies that parents can use to address this behavior. By using replacement behaviors, identifying triggers, implementing schedules, using positive reinforcement, and considering sensory integration therapy when applicable, parents can help reduce the occurrence of repetitive behavior in their children. If you are concerned about your child's behavior, seek advice from a qualified professional for personalized recommendations.