Common Patterns in Children with ASDs

Children with ASDs have excessive, unusual, unique, peculiar or repetitive
behaviors interests and activities. These include attachment and fascination to
objects and various stereotypies that are repetitive, nonfunctional and
atypical. These include finger and hand movements, hand posing positions, self
injurious behaviors and rocking or twirling movements.

The above described activities and patterns are at times disruptive but rarely cause harm to the child. Repetitive mouthing and biting of fingers or hands can cause
chronic skin changes but infections are rare. The frequency of the activity or
behavior, however, can cause the child to be off task and miss educational and
learning opportunities.

Children with disorders other than ASDs also have stereotypies. These include children with profound mental retardation and hearing or vision sensory deficits. Neurotypical (NT) children may also briefly express such behaviors but they are transient and usually they can easily be distracted from the interests and behaviors. Stereotypies are often not seen until preschool age. Earlier patterns include toe walking that may persist into
school age. Sensory tics including sniffing and licking of non food items are
also common.

Another common pattern concerns food interests and disinterests. The food menu of children with ASDs is often very limited and generally is not associated with food allergy or adverse reactions. There is a subset of of children with ASD who have gluten or milk protein sensitivity but this is not the primary reason for limited food preferences.

Transitional support objects are often unusual. Most children have various “loveys” including blankets or stuffed animals during certain developmental stages. Children with
ASDs usually prefer common household items including keys, pens, action figures
or animal models including dinosaurs or animals. They often show an extended
attachment to these “carry objects” throughout an entire day or over many weeks
or months.  If they are forced to release this object they usually become upset
and a temper tantrum is a common result. Some children with ASDs allow one carry
object to be substituted for another with little concern. This attachment can
migrate to a new object only to return again in the future.   Although these
objects are carried almost everywhere the child does not use them to engage in
typical play activities.

Children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) often show an interest in various topics and fact gathering. Rather than carrying a toy care they may show detailed knowledge about specific car types and car specifications. AS children may have a knowledge of geography, paleontology or historical details that is not unusual for age in terms of topic but is excessive due to the quantity, quality, depth and level of interest. If forced
to change topics they usually return to the topic and may become upset and
rapidly escalate into a prolonged temper tantrum with associated aggressive or
self injurious behavior (SIB).

Children with ASDs who have associated severe intellectual disabilities are more prone to self injurious behaviors that can be precipitated by frustration due to difficulty coping and adjusting to transitions, change anxiety or communication difficulty. Additionally body states in terms of fatigue, illness pain and sleep deprivation will also
accelerate stereotypies and self injurious behavior (SIB). These types of
behaviors make it difficult to integrate these children into mainstream
educational activities.