Types of Restrictive Behaviors

A long-time friend has just now been told of the need for a screening for autism for her 8-year-old daughter. Mom was confused by the question on the parent survey that asks if her child displays any restrictive behaviors. Although not necessarily comprehensive, the list below gives a general overview of restrictive behaviors commonly experienced by individuals with autism.

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RITUALS. Many individuals with autism are focused to some extent on rituals. For example, a child may insist on sitting in the same spot in a classroom or an adult may always clean his glasses before saying hello to another person.

REPETITIVE BEHAVIORS. Some people with autism twirl string, rock when sitting or standing, hum or buzz, or flap their hands. These repetitive behaviors are sometimes called “stimming.”

INFLEXIBILITY. A common characteristic in autism is inflexibility. A person may insist on wearing the same t-shirt every Thursday or they may insist on eating tuna fish for supper every single night.

INTOLERANCE FOR CHANGE. Individuals with autism can become very agitated if a teacher is absent or if a new pattern of wallpaper is installed in the kitchen.

TRANSITION ISSUES. Some people with autism struggle during the time of transition between one activity and another, even when the new activity is something they really enjoy. For example, one of my students really enjoys participating in music therapy, but he screams and bites his hand when his mom tells him it is time to get in the car and ride to music therapy.

NARROW INTERESTS. People with autism might only eat 5 or 10 different foods, or they may insist on watching the same three movies over and over again. One of my students insisted on eating macaroni and cheese for breakfast, lunch, and supper. And he became very agitated if he could not watch the same Star Wars movie every night before bed.

TIP FOR THE DAY: Keep in mind that autism is on a spectrum, so any given individual may have serious issues with restrictive behaviors while others have very few discernable issues with routines and rituals.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at talk@FAQautism.com with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com

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