How are stereotypies in the physical exam for autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Updated: Sep 30, 2019
  • Author: James Robert Brasic, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Movements observed in individuals with autistic disorder are frequently classified as stereotypies (eg, purposeless, repetitive, patterned motions, postures, and sounds). Stereotypies are divided into the following 3 topologic classes:

  • Orofacial - Eg, tongue, mouth, and facial movements; smelling; and sniffing and other sounds

  • Extremity - Eg, hand, finger, toe, and leg

  • Head and trunk - Eg, rolling, tilting, or banging of the head, and rocking of the body

Stereotypies occur in infants who are not autistic and in children with mental retardation. Regular assessment of stereotypies is a valuable practice because stereotypies may bother other people and interfere with performance at school, work, and home. Routine assessment of stereotypies before, during, and after treatment is valuable in determining the effects of interventions.

Stereotypies are assessed for clinical purposes through regular use of the Timed Stereotypies Rating Scale. For this procedure, the occurrence of stereotypies is noted during 30-second intervals over a 10-minute period. For additional information about the rating of stereotypies, please see Tardive Dyskinesia.

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