How To Stop Repetitive Behaviour In Autism: A Helpful Guide For Parents

Sameer C
·3-min read

Toddlers are prone to repetitive self-stimulatory behaviours when growing up. The behaviour can include hand flapping or rocking or repeating what they just heard. Repetitive behaviour can be normal development in a child or could be a sign of autism.

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that develops at an early age. It happens when different parts of the brain do not work together. That’s why kids with autism struggle in communication, self-explanation, and motor skills.

Children with autism are likely to show repetitive behaviours. Therefore, parents who are concerned that their child could be displaying symptoms of autism may have to immediately connect with a paediatrician.

Meanwhile, read on further to find out how to stop repetitive behaviour in autism.

Types Of Repetitive Behaviours

how to stop repetitive behavior in autism
how to stop repetitive behavior in autism

Image courtesy: iStock

Another shorthand for repetitive behaviour is stimming in autism. This can be further divided into two categories. There’s repetitive physical behaviour and behaviours that show a child’s need for sameness.

With respect to physical stimming, parents need to watch out for:

  • Hand and object flapping

  • Spinning

  • Repetitive use of objects like toys

  • Spinning objects that aren’t meant to be spun

  • Peering closely at objects

  • Repetitively feeling, licking or sniffing objects

  • Wearing the same outfit every day

  • Need for a strict schedule

  • Eating the same food every day

That being said, it’s not uncommon for toddlers to find an activity that they like and repeat it regularly. It’s a regular part of the growth and development process.

Once they learn how to do something, they like to do it over and over again. Ideally, babies repeat what they hear until they are 18 months old, while toddlers with autism can continue repeating until they are nearly three years old.

Repetitive Behaviour In Autism

Children with autism will have more telling signs that parents need to watch out for. This includes avoiding eye contact, pretending to not hear, lack of communication skills like speaking, as well as stimming or repetitive behaviours.

Children with autism are more likely to repeat their actions including shaking their head and body, clapping hands, swinging their arms to the left and right, and repeating voices heard. This is in a way a coping mechanism for the child as they try to make sense of the world but are unable to communicate the same effectively.

Repetitive behaviour can be concerning as the child grows older, which means they are not developing communication and social skills. That’s why it’s important to know how to stop repetitive behaviour in autism at an early stage. Apart from the medication, parents need to instil positive behaviour to reduce the effects of stimming.

How To Stop Repetitive Behaviour In Autism

how to stop repetitive behavior in autism
how to stop repetitive behavior in autism

Image Source: Pexels

It’s necessary to treat repetitive behaviour in autism when the signs first show up. Ideally, repetitive behaviour in children with autism has been identified as attracting attention. In several cases, it helps them relax.

Certain experts suggest ignoring kids with repetitive behaviour, especially when done to attract attention. Instead, parents can distract the child’s attention by playing games or redirecting their focus on something else.

The development of communication and trying to make them gain speaking skills also helps in reducing stimming in children. They are then able to express verbally what they think and feel, instead of following repetitive behaviour.

Parents can also opt for special therapy, as well as behavioural training and treatment. Your paediatrician might also prescribe medication if necessary. Over time, repetitive behaviour can disappear with timely therapy and training. Parental attention remains an extremely important part of the treatment and requires a lot of time and patience.

Children with autism may seem different but they are also extremely gifted with special abilities. Apart from combating stimming, pay attention to discovering their hidden talents, and you can nurture them further. This in turn will help reduce repetitive behaviour, while improving their communication and social skills.


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