Autism, currently referred to as autism spectrum disorder, is a group of conditions associated with improper brain development that results in altered social interaction, communication, and perception by the affected individual. The condition is present in early childhood and persists through adulthood, resulting in difficulties related to education, work, and normal functioning in society.
Medical experts are of the opinion that there is probably more than one cause of autism that can result in the condition, and these include genetic factors, including genetic disorders, and environmental factors, such as viral infections, exposure to air pollutants, medications, and complications during pregnancy.
While autism can present with a myriad of symptoms and vary greatly between affected individuals, the three core characteristic features that are seen in autism include
Repetitive Behaviours, Restrictive Behaviours, and Stereotypical Behaviours are jointly considered as one of the 3 core symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. These repetitive behaviours are purposeless, usually combined with highly rigid and selective interests. They can be broadly categorized as follows
Repetitive behaviours may also be categorized as stereotypical behaviours and preservative behaviours. Stereotypical behaviours refer to the constant repetition of a movement or act, and preservative behaviours refer to the constant vocal repetition of words, phrases, or details.
Medical experts believe that one of the causes of these repetitive behaviours is due to alterations at a genetic level. Motor reflexes that are essential for an individual's normal development come under voluntary control as the individual grows. Motor repetitive behaviours usually disappear by age 4-6 years in general. Still, in individuals with autism spectrum disorders, gene alterations cause the persistence of these motor reflexes from early childhood into adulthood without any voluntary control.
In individuals with autism spectrum disorders, repetitive behaviours may be seen constantly or may only be seen when the individual is stressed. Repetitive behaviours can help to calm an individual with autism when they are exposed to external stimuli, causing high sensory input. The repetitive behaviours help the individual block out the sensory input and divert their attention to something familiar, which helps them calm down and not react violently or aggressively.
Not all repetitive behaviours are harmful; in some individuals, they may even serve a purpose. Repetitive behaviours such as head banging or biting can lead to self-harm and be considered harmful. But, most repetitive behaviours are harmless, and higher order repetitive behaviours may even benefit some, as they can help them find a purpose or get along with other individuals who share the same interests.
However, repetitive behaviours could distract or impede normal social interactions, as these behaviours would either interfere with normal activity or make other people uncomfortable when interacting with the individual. The effects of repetitive behaviours can include
While there may not be a need to stop or address a repetitive behaviour in general, an intervention may be necessary if the repetitive behaviour is likely to cause self harm. Some measures that can help with the management of repetitive behaviours include
When the signs or symptoms of autism are noticed in a child, it is advisable to seek a consultation with a psychiatrist nearby. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders can greatly benefit when the child receives early interventions to help them with their condition and when parents are advised and educated about what needs to be done to provide their child with a safe environment to grow and develop.