Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder which impacts many areas of functioning including social functioning, communication, and repetitive behaviors. The degree of symptoms and problems associated with ASD can vary from person to person. Individuals with this condition have difficulty with the social-emotional aspects of interactions and have trouble understanding social relationships. Nonverbal communication is also affected; behaviors such as eye contact or using gestures while interacting can be limited.
Repetition and Restriction in ASD
All individuals with ASD manifest some sort of preference for activities or environments which are familiar, but this can take a variety of forms. Repetitive movements (sometimes referred to as “stimming”) such as flapping or finger-waving can be some of the more noticeable demonstrations of repetition. Many individuals with ASD can demonstrate very narrow interests in a specific topic; they can spend an inordinate amount of time in a specific activity or they can acquire an impressively large amount of information about a subject. Some of these individuals can overuse certain phrases and words instead of relying on a more spontaneous pattern of speech. A lack of spontaneity and a lack of openness to new activities and routines can also be related.
Sensory Functioning and ASD
Technically, sensory differences are not required for a diagnosis of ASD, but these are some of the more common phenomena that accompany and motivate rigidity and inflexibility. Many individuals may be overly sensitive to stimuli around them. For instance, they can have trouble tolerating sounds or light. Interestingly, some individuals can show the opposite pattern and can be less sensitive to stimulation. For instance, they might not show a typical reaction to pain or being hurt.