Children with autism spectrum disorders are often restricted, rigid and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests. This can show up as:
- Repetitive body movements
- Following an inflexible schedule
- Attachment to unusual objects
- Pre-occupation with a narrow topic of interest
Children with autism spectrum disorders commonly engage in repetitive movements such as hand flapping, rocking, or twirling. Such self-stimulatory behavior, may preoccupy your child to the exclusion of all other activities and interests. Alternately, he or she may spend hours arranging toys in specific ways, watching moving objects such as a ceiling fan, or focusing on one specific part of an object.
Common self-stimulatory behaviors:
- Hand flapping
- Rocking back and forth
- Spinning in a circle
- Finger flicking
- Head banging
- Staring at lights
- Moving fingers in front of the eyes
- Snapping fingers
- Tapping ears
- Lining up toys
- Spinning objects
- Wheel spinning
- Watching moving objects
- Flicking light switches on and off
- Repeating words or noises
Often, kids on the autism spectrum also exhibit clumsiness, abnormal posture, or eccentric ways of moving. For example, a child with autism may walk exclusively on tiptoe.
Inflexible or obsessive activities and interests
Some children with autism spectrum disorders follow rigid routines and are resistant to any changes in their schedule or environment. For example, they may insist on taking a certain route to school and become extremely upset if they have to go another way. They may have a temper tantrum if the furniture in their house is rearranged or they have to eat lunch at a different time than they're used to. Many children with ASDs also form obsessive attachments to unusual objects such as keys or rubber bands, or become preoccupied with a very specific topic. This topic often involves numbers or symbols (maps, train schedules, sports statistics), and the child may spend hours memorizing and reciting facts about it.
Children with autism spectrum disorders tend to be less spontaneous than other kids. Unlike a typical curious little kid pointing to things that catch his or her eye, autistic children often appear disinterested or unaware of what's going on around them. They also show differences in the way they play. They usually don't "play make-believe," engage in group games, imitate others, or use their toys in creative ways.