Stereotypies and repetitive/restrictive behaviours in infants with autism and pervasive developmental disorder

Johnny L. Matson, Psychology Department, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 70816, USA.
Timothy Dempsey
Jill C. Fodstad


PURPOSE: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are characterized by severe and debilitating symptoms including stereotyped and repetitive behaviours. Stereotypies and repetitive behaviours constitute core features of ASD and markedly impede attempts to remediate the disorder. Little previous research has examined characteristics of the core features of ASD in infants. METHOD: In the present study, 760 infants with autism, PDD-NOS or no diagnosis of ASD but at risk for other developmental delays or physical disabilities were evaluated with respect to the nature and extent of their stereotyped and ritualistic behaviour using the Baby and Infant Screen for Children with aUtIsm Traits (BISCUIT). A Kruskal-Wallis test with follow-up Mann-Whitney tests were employed to test for significant differences. RESULTS: Infants with autism evinced the highest amount of stereotypic behaviour, followed by those with PDD-NOS and atypical development. A sub-set of BISCUIT items could accurately predict diagnostic group membership. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that many core features of ASD are distinct and can be reliably identified early in life. The potential early identification of these behavioural challenges could lead to earlier intervention practices and symptom alleviation for children in this population.