Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 237-243

First online:

Varieties of Repetitive Behavior in Autism: Comparisons to Mental Retardation

  • James W. BodfishAffiliated withHuman Development Research and Training Institute, Western Carolina Center
  • , Frank J. SymonsAffiliated withFrank Porter Graham Child Development Center, University of North Carolina
  • , Dawn E. ParkerAffiliated withHuman Development Research and Training Institute, Western Carolina Center
  • , Mark H. LewisAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Florida

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Systematic study of abnormal repetitive behaviors in autism has been lacking despite the diagnostic significance of such behavior. The occurrence of specific topographies of repetitive behaviors as well as their severity was assessed in individuals with mental retardation with and without autism. The occurrence of each behavior category, except dyskinesias, was higher in the autism group and autistic subjects exhibited a significantly greater number of topographies of stereotypy and compulsions. Both groups had significant patterns of repetitive behavior co-occurrence. Autistic subjects had significantly greater severity ratings for compulsions, stereotypy, and self-injury. Repetitive behavior severity also predicted severity of autism. Although abnormal repetition is not specific to autism, an elevated pattern of occurrence and severity appears to characterize the disorder.

Autism mental retardation repetitive behavior