A Look at Rituals in Children with Autism

Everyone has individual quirks. For instance, you might need to have your alarm clock placed at a particular angle on your nightstand before you can fall asleep. In children with autism, these behaviors are called rituals or routines, and they’re not always harmful. When a child’s rituals do interfere with his or her life and productivity, an ABA therapist can help.

Identifying Rituals and Routines

Parents often find it helpful to keep a written record of their observations. This lets the autism therapy provider become more familiar with a child’s individual behaviors, and the extent to which they might be a burden on family life. Some examples of ritualistic behaviors include:

  • Dressing and re-dressing several times each morning
  • Asking the same question repetitively and requiring the same answer
  • Arranging toys in a specific order
  • Drinking only from a specific cup
  • Needing to flush the toilet upon entering each new building

Knowing When Rituals Become Problematic

It’s common for parents of children with autism to learn to pick their battles. But sometimes, even benign rituals can become problematic. For example, if a child needs to change his or her clothing five times every morning, he or she might be habitually late to school. When determining whether to work with an ABA therapist to change ritualistic behaviors, consider whether the behavior interferes with your child’s:

  • Social interactions
  • Academic progress
  • Physical health
  • Family relationships

Additionally, consider whether the rituals might be problematic for other family members or the family as a whole.

Handling Ritualistic Behaviors

When working with a child who engages in repetitive or ritualistic behaviors , a therapist will consider what might be driving the behavior. Perhaps the child is distressed by the environment or upset by changes in routine. Sometimes, rituals can serve as a coping mechanism for children who crave greater structure. A therapist can work with your family to establish boundaries and limits for the child, decrease anxiety in everyday life, and lessen the duration and frequency of the behaviors.

At The Behavior Exchange , it’s our mission to empower families affected by autism. Our behavior analysts serving Plano offer one-on-one and group therapy that can help children with autism change behaviors that might hold them back in life. Connect with us at (888) 716-8084 to discuss whether your child might benefit from working with one of our dedicated ABA therapists.





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