Autism Aware
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Restrictive repetitive patterns of behaviour

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This section takes a look at the restrictive and repetitive patterns of behaviour. It discusses the area of social imagination and how the rigidity of thinking can cause anxiety and behavioural issues for a person with autism.


This presentation will examine restrictive, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities.

It is through our social imagination that we are able to predict and understand other people’s thoughts and feelings.

We can imagine situations outside our daily routine or comprehend ideas that might be considered abstract.

The area of social imagination can be difficult for children and people with autism.

Rigidity of thinking and reliance on routine can make it very challenging for people with autism to predict what will happen next.

This can lead to anxiety and behavioural issues when a person with autism finds themselves in an unfamiliar or stressful situation.

This is why many children and people with autism are reliant on routine and schedules as they remove the necessity for social imagination.

The difficulties in social imagination faced by people with autism can be explained through the dyad of impairments.

We use our social imagination to predict and understand other peoples behaviour, and to make sense of abstract ideas.

People with autism experience difficulty in many of these aspects of social imagination, such as interpreting other peoples feelings and predicting what will happen next. They also find coping with change and adapting to unfamiliar situations challenging.

These are some of the ways that people with Autism may experience restrictive, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities;

People with Autism are very reliant on routine manage their day to day lives.

Many people and children with autism have difficulty in coping with unexpected changes

Transitioning from one task to another can also be difficult

People with autism can be very resistant to changes in their routine and may rely on visual prompts to make these changes.

Uncertainty about what is coming next or unexpected change to routine can result in anxiety and drive challenging behaviours.

Some people with Autism may also;

Have restricted interests and can fixate on a particular object or area of interest

People with Autism may find it difficult to predict how their behaviours will impact on other people.

Have difficulty in understanding how others think, feel and react in some social situations.

Have problems with predicting actions of others or events in the future.

Can have difficulties with new or unfamiliar situations, environments and people

Some people with autism can have difficulties in understanding concepts such as danger or threat.

Author: Laura Crowley - Director of Educational Support Services
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