One of the hallmark features of an autism spectrum disorder is the presence of restrictive and repetitive behaviors (RRBs), interests, and activities. Individuals may engage in stereotyped and repetitive motor movements (e.g., hand flapping or lining up items) or speech (e.g., echolalia). They may have an insistence on sameness, such as needing to take the same route to school every day or requiring that activities be completed in exactly the same order each time. RRBs can be problematic when they interfere with the individual’s ability to engage in other activities (e.g., academics or leisure) and when they negatively impact social relationships. In addition, when some individuals are blocked from engaging in repetitive behavior or if a change in routine is required, they may feel anxiety and engage in more severe problem behaviors, such as aggression, to gain access to the ritual or to discourage others from changing the routine. Research has shown that behavioral interventions can be effective at reducing RRBs and other problem behaviors that are associated with them.

References for Further Reading:

Leon Y, Lazarchick WN, Rooker GW, DeLeon IG. (2013). Assessment of problem behavior evoked by disruption of ritualistic toy arrangements in a child with autismJournal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46(2), 507-511.

Rodriguez NM, Thompson RH, Schlichenmeyer K, Stocco CS.(2012). Functional analysis and treatment of arranging and ordering by individuals with an autism spectrum disorderJournal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45(1), 1–22.

Boyd BA, McDonough SG, Bodfish JW. (2011). Evidence-based behavioral interventions for repetitive behaviors in autismJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(6), 1236–1248.

Boyd BA, McDonough SG, Rupp B, Khan F, Bodfish JW. (2011). Effects of a family-implemented treatment on the repetitive behaviors of children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(10), 1330-1341.

Boyd BA, Woodard CR, Bodfish JW. (2011). Feasibility of exposure response prevention to treat repetitive behaviors of children with autism and an intellectual disability: A brief reportAutism, 17(2), 196–204.

Cassella MD, Sidener TM, Sidener DW, Progar PR. (2011). Response interruption and redirection for vocal stereotypy in children with autism: A systematic replicationJournal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44(1), 169–173.

Patterson SY, Smith V, Jelen M. (2010). Behavioural intervention practices for stereotypic and repetitive behaviour in individuals with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic reviewDevelopmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 52(4), 318–327.

Kuhn DE, Hardesty SL, Sweeney NM. (2009). Assessment and treatment of excessive straightening and destructive behavior in an adolescent diagnosed with autismJournal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(2), 355-360.

Ahearn WH, Clark KM, MacDonald RP, Chung BI. (2007). Assessing and treating vocal stereotypy in children with autismJournal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40(2), 263-275.