Stereotyped movements in children are voluntary, repetitive and rhythmic movements that appear impulsive and do not pursue any objective. They are called stereotyped movements because they follow a fixed pattern, that is, the child always performs them in exactly the same way.
The child with the Stereotyped Movement Disorder could manifest it by swaying, biting the fingers, scratching or performing some movement continuously. We tell you everything about this disorder in children.
They usually start before 3 years of age. Stereotyped movements must have a minimum duration of at least 4 weeks. They usually tend to be accentuated or induced by sleep, stress, concentration, fatigue, sensory isolation, boredom, or anxiety
If the child becomes distracted or starts an activity, it is likely that he will stop doing these stereotyped movements without great difficulties, so we can help the child by capturing his attention, with an activity that is to his liking, so that he stops doing this type of movements.
Children who manifest stereotyped movements often experience great discomfort because these movements interfere with their daily life.
There are two types of stereotypes:
- Primary stereotypes: They occur in children with normal psychomotor development. They affect a small percentage of the healthy child population.
- Secondary stereotypes: They occur in children with associated neurological disorders such as autism, mental retardation, or sensorimotor deficits.
It is estimated that around 3% and 9% of children between 5 and 8 years old perform stereotyped movements to stimulate themselves at the sensorimotor level or to relax through the discharge of tension. Stereotyped movements sometimes take place when children are frustrated, bored, or under high stress. In this case we are talking about stereotyped movements or primary stereotypies because they are movements that take place in children who enjoy normal psychomotor development.
Stereotyped movements are common in children who have a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) better known colloquially as Autism. Children with PDD spend much of their day performing stereotypical movements. It is estimated that between 40 and 45% of children with PDD show stereotyped movements as a means of calming down or showing that they are enthusiastic. In this case, we would be talking about stereotyped movements or secondary stereotypies because they are movements that take place in children diagnosed with PDD.
The most common stereotyped movements in children are:
- Biting your fingers, hands or any other part of the body.
- Bruxism during the day.
- Arm flapping (move arms as if they were birds).
- Unmotivated applause.
- Hitting or throwing objects.
- Scratching the skin.
- Nose picking.
- Repetitive vocalizations without communicative value.
In most cases treatment is not necessary. However, relatives of children with stereotyped movements often show high levels of concern. So normally, the main objective of the professional is to reassure family members and convey to them that this type of behavior is benign.
Stereotyped movements do not harm or impair the development of the child, unless we are talking about stereotyped movements with a self-injurious nature, but it is true that they cause social rejection in the peer group.
In the event that the stereotyped movements in children are self-injurious or seriously interfere with the different areas of their lives, it will be necessary to carry out a behavioral treatment to help them replace these movements with more adaptive ones and an adjuvant pharmacological treatment.
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