Published On: November 19, 2021
Updated On: November 15, 2022
Getting to Know ASD Behaviors
Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors (RRBs) are some hallmark symptoms of young children with autism. These, at times, intense interests and behaviors often interfere with a child’s social skills and ability to engage or learn.
If your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) exhibits these tendencies, it is highly encouraged to use behavioral interventions to treat them. To get the proper treatment for RRBs, however, you must be able to recognize them correctly.
This guide looks at what a restricted range of interests in children might look like, how you can best treat them, and strategies to reinforce these treatments across multiple environments.
In this blog, we will cover the following:
- What are common restricted and repetitive behaviors?
- Why do children with autism perform restricted behaviors?
- Six strategies for helping children with restricted behaviors
Common Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors
For children with autism, there are many common RRBs. However, each child will display them differently and at varying frequencies. Although not a prescriptive set of restricted interests or behaviors for children with ASD, these are some of the more frequently seen ones:
- Nodding or rocking
- Waving of hands
- Lining up toys or other items
- Repeating words or speech patterns
- Fixation on hobbies or singular behaviors
- Spinning in circles or running back and forth
These are just a few of the many restricted interests and behaviors that a child with autism might display. If you are beginning to notice repeated movements, behavioral patterns, or fixations, we highly recommend documenting them and asking your child’s ABA therapist about the next steps for treatment.
Why do Children with Autism Perform Restricted Behaviors?
Restricted interests or behaviors — also known as echolalia – might be performed for various reasons.
We know that children with autism thrive on routine, and repetitive behaviors can begin to create some sort of pattern and response bias for a child with autism. If they ask repetitive questions, they will likely get the expected results. Similarly, moving in repeated motions will become familiar and comforting to them.
Another reason a child with autism might perform a repeated behavior is if they become uncomfortable or frustrated when facing a new situation.
The comfort of the default behavior, especially a repeated one, might be the easiest way for your child to calm themselves and avoid confusion. They also might perform these repeated behaviors to deal with sensory or stimulation overload.
6 Strategies for Helping Children with Restricted Interests
Not all restricted interests need to be treated or significantly intervened, but it is essential to recognize them and create clear guidelines for your child. Here are some strategies to help you and your family accomplish this:
1. Assess the Behavior:
Not all restricted behaviors are inherently harmful. Fixation on certain hobbies or special interests doesn’t necessarily have to stop. Still, it must be monitored or adjusted to a level where the actions don’t interfere with daily life in an unhealthy manner. If a restricted interest is hurtful to your child or anyone else, it must be intervened immediately with proper treatment.
2. Understand Why the Behavior Occurs:
Every child is unique, so we want to understand why each individual performs these actions—for example, knowing whether they are sensitive to certain stimuli or stressed in social situations. However, therapy or treatment might be needed to find the true root of the behavior’s existence, which will require time and patience.
3. Modify Trigger Environments:
If your child is displaying RRBs in specific settings, such as classrooms or certain areas at home, examine why that might be. Perhaps it is too loud, too bright, or too confined. Many repetitive behaviors stem from discomfort with any of a multitude of environmental variables.
4. Create Structure and Boundaries:
As you identify repetitive interests and decide how to intervene, structure and boundaries will do wonders for your child. After all, children with autism thrive on routine. Healthy education support modes incorporating learning and growing together will help displace or redirect negative repetitive behaviors.
5. Develop Anxiety and Stress Scales:
As your child with autism develops, they will eventually have to learn how to manage anxiety and self-regulate the wide range of their emotions. However, they may need help learning early on, and RRBs are often their response before they know how to self-regulate.
We recommend a system that your child willingly engages with and may even enjoy – encouraging them to participate in communication beneficial to both the child and parent.
6. Intervene Early:
ABA and evidence-based research have shown that early intervention is one of the most significant factors in helping children with autism. Suppose they are exhibiting restricted interests or behaviors that you let continue. In that case, they’ll continue to be reinforced in your child and have a much higher chance of lasting much longer throughout your child’s life.
It is highly recommended that you find an appropriate ABA therapist and treatment for your child’s restricted interests as early as possible.
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for dealing with ASD or echolalia. The good news is that quality ABA therapists and clinicians can help fit therapeutic solutions into a feasible framework for parents, educators, and professionals working with your child.
Treat Restricted Interests at Ally Pediatric Therapy
Ally Pediatric Therapy prides itself on supplying unique and effective solutions for the needs of both you and your child with autism.
Our team of experienced BCBAs and licensed therapists understand the process of treating restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. They would love to help give you and all those involved in your child’s life the knowledge and tools to ensure your child’s success.
Early intervention is one of the best ways to bolster your child’s development, so please contact us today for a consultation to see if treatment is appropriate.