Getting to Know ASD Behaviors
Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors (RRBs) are some of the hallmark symptoms of children with autism, and often can interfere with a child’s ability to engage, learn, or socialize. If your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is exhibiting these tendencies, it is highly encouraged to go through behavioral interventions to treat them. In order to get the proper treatment for RRBs, however, it is vital that you’re able to recognize them appropriately.
Here’s a handy guide on what children with restricted interest might look like, how you can best treat them, and strategies to reinforce these treatments across multiple environments.
Common Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors
For children with autism, there are many common RRBs, though 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 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. One thing we know for sure is 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 are likely to get familiar results. Similarly, moving in repeated motions will become familiar and comforting to them.
Other reasons a child with autism might perform a repeated behavior is if they become uncomfortable or frustrated when facing a new situation. The comfort of a default behavior, especially a repeated one, might be the easiest way for your child to calm themselves and avoid confusion. They also might be performing 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 important to recognize all of them and create clear guidelines for your child. Here are some strategies that can help you and your family accomplish this:
1. Assess the Behavior:
Not all restricted behaviors are inherently negative. Fixation on hobbies or interests doesn’t necessarily have to stop, but 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 is Occurring:
Every child is unique, so we want to understand why each individual is performing these actions. If they are sensitive to certain stimuli, or if they are stressed in social situations, it might be easy to identify a direct correlation. However, there might be therapy or treatment needed to find the true root of the behavior’s existence, which will require time as well as 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 a bit too confined. Many repetitive behaviors stem from discomfort with any of a multitude of environmental variables.
4. Create Structure and Boundaries:
As you begin to 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 support modes that incorporate learning and growing together will help to 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. Using scales of 1-5 or a traffic light system of anxiety is common. We recommend a system that your child willingly engages with and may even enjoy – encouraging them to participate in a means of 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. If they are exhibiting restricted interests or behaviors that you let go on, it’ll continue to be reinforced in your child and therefore has a much higher chance of lasting a lot 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 will be able to help, fitting therapeutic solutions into a feasible framework for parents, educators, and any professionals working with your child.
Treat Restricted Interests at Ally Pediatric Therapy
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, we pride ourselves on supplying unique and effective solutions for the needs of both you and your child with autism. Our team of BCBAs and licensed therapists are experienced in treating restricted interests and repetitive behaviors, and would love to help give you and all those involved in your child’s life the knowledge and tools that will ensure your child’s success. Early intervention is one of the best ways to bolster development for your child, so please reach out today for a consultation to see if treatment is appropriate!