Longitudinal patterns of repetitive behavior in toddlers with autism Academic Article uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Recent evidence suggests that restricted and repetitive behaviors may differentiate children who develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by late infancy. How these core symptoms manifest early in life, particularly among infants at high risk for the disorder, is not well characterized. METHODS: Prospective, longitudinal parent-report data (Repetitive Behavior Scales-Revised) were collected for 190 high-risk toddlers and 60 low-risk controls from 12 to 24 months of age. Forty-one high-risk children were classified with ASD at age 2. Profiles of repetitive behavior were compared between groups using generalized estimating equations. RESULTS: Longitudinal profiles for children diagnosed with ASD differed significantly from high- and low-risk children without the disorder on all measures of repetitive behavior. High-risk toddlers without ASD were intermediate to low risk and ASD positive counterparts. Toddlers with ASD showed significantly higher rates of repetitive behavior across subtypes at the 12-month time point. Repetitive behaviors were significantly correlated with adaptive behavior and socialization scores among children with ASD at 24 months of age, but were largely unrelated to measures of general cognitive ability. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that as early as 12 months of age, a broad range of repetitive behaviors are highly elevated in children who go on to develop ASD. While some degree of repetitive behavior is elemental to typical early development, the extent of these behaviors among children who develop ASD appears highly atypical.


  • Wolff, Jason J
  • Botteron, Kelly N
  • Dager, Stephen R
  • Elison, Jed T
  • Estes, Annette M
  • Gu, Hongbin
  • Hazlett, Heather C
  • Pandey, Juhi
  • Paterson, Sarah J
  • Schultz, Robert T
  • Zwaigenbaum, Lonnie
  • Piven, Joseph

publication date

  • August 2014