Reframing Repetitive Behaviors

Monday December 28, 2020 at 9:30 AM


Reframing Repetitive Behaviors

December’s issue of Metro Parent highlighted an interview with Lauren Bauer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst at Gateway Pediatric Therapy’s Bingham Farms location. Lauren discusses repetitive behaviors in children with autism and how to reframe perception of these behaviors.

Receptive behaviors are common among children on the autism spectrum and commonly termed “stimming.” Lauren explains, “Repetitive motor behaviors might include spinning or rocking, and they occur for different reasons. Kids are not doing this for other people’s attention or approval, but typically because something about the behavior is reinforcing in that it can be self- soothing, anxiety-reducing, or just feels good.”

A common uncertainty amongst parents is how to feel about stimming and concern about how peers or classmates might respond to the behaviors. Rather than discouraging these behaviors, Lauren discusses how many of us, to a certain extent, engage in some sort of repetitive behavior. “For example, I bite my nails and crack my knuckles. Others might fidget with their jewelry, pace, or twirl their hair.” Once we can acknowledge how it feels to have our own repetitive behavior highlighted, we can better understand what a child with autism is experiencing and change our mindset about stimming.

However, Lauren does emphasize addressing the appropriateness of disruptive behavior based on the setting, “such as loud vocalizations at the library” and working with your child to self-monitor to become of aware of when and where the behavior is occurring. The goal is to help your child self-monitor and know when it’s appropriate to engage in a disruptive behavior. In this example, saving their excitement at the library for when they go outside.

Lauren goes on to focus on “scripting”, which is the “seemingly random vocal repetition of a phrase”—the phrase could be from a TV show or game. In these instances, Lauren emphasizes, “we don’t talk specifically about not scripting, but offer examples of what you can say when starting a conversation or playing a game with others. We talk about saying ‘my turn’ or ‘your turn’ or ‘good job.’ Since we have taught them so many different things, they are now able to generate additional comments that we have not taught.” Through focusing on learning appropriate comments, children are able to develop a lifelong skill that carries over into different situations and interactions.

To read the article in full, visit Metro Parent here.

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