Special Needs

Hand flapping and repetitive behavior


My DS is 3 and started preschool a couple of months ago. He flaps his hands when he's excited, and the teacher is now telling me that she's noticed some repetitive behavior, such as repeating words unnecessarily, or needing to do things in a certain sequence before being able to move on. My DS is a high energy child, very sociable, does not display any other signs of what could be autism. However, the teacher seems concerned and so am I. Could anyone share a similar experience? I would like to know for instance if a child in the autism spectrum can still go to mainstream school (with maybe some extra help at home), or will need special needs school.

Thank you.


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Re: Hand flapping and repetitive behavior

  • Mine flaps hands when excieted but he's none verbal he's 2 in halve mines in a special needs school that understands him he's delay n ADHD with sensory
  • My son did the same thing when he started school--he would repeat himself a ton and like to repeat activities. With time the behavior decreased. Has your LO recently had a speech explosion? My son went from 50ish words to 6 word sentences seemingly overnight and he repeated for quite a while--I think he was just happy to finally be understood. lol. Routine and repetition doesn't always equal autism. being at a new place can be stressful for a young toddler and similar routines can be comforting.

    In regards to hand flapping, I think that just about all kids go through phases (especially young toddlers) where they do it out of excitement--unless he's doing it to show other emotions like sadness/anxiety I wouldnt get super concerned over it.

    All the things you mentioned might be a sign of sensory processing disorder which can occur in children who are not autistic. You could always have him evaluated by an OT to be on the safe side. Honestly I would chalk up most of the new behaviors you're seeing to his new environment and not autism though.

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  • It's always sensible to consider the concerns of a well qualified and experienced preschool teacher.

    Repeating words (echolalia) past the time when a child is learning language is a red flag for autism, though it is also sometimes seen in CAPDs as well. Of course CAPD and ASD are commonly comorbid.

    Being "social", especially with indulgent adults, is not a rule out for ASD. DS, who has Aspergers and spoke in complete sentenses at 15 months, flew well below the radar in preschool- he played like other threes and fours and was very engaged with his teachers.

    My son has only ever been in mainstream classes except for a brief 2 year stint in a special school for kids with dyslexia and ADHD. He's in college now.

  • My son's differences were first verbalized to me by the special ed teacher in his integrated mainstream preschool.  He was barely 3.  She came to me with concerns with in the first two weeks.  My son doesn't often flap his hands but at 3 (and still to a lesser degree now at 4) he had very repetitive language (echolalia and preservation).  He is also very high energy and had a VERY short attention span.  He was very social, mostly with adults, but still mostly engaged in parallel play at 3. He was primarily using 2-3 word sentences instead of the 5-10 they said was age appropriate.

    His teacher has since told me she knew for a while that he is autistic but didn't tell me initially.  It's interesting to me because after his initial meeting his Developmental Pedi did not think he would get an autism diagnosis( she thought ADHD or maybe a nonverbal learning disorder).  He had enough markers that she wanted a child psych to do the thorough evaluation including the ADOS.  The psych gave him a PDD-NOS diagnosis.  His teacher was right.

    DS is 4 he's in a mainstream integrated classroom.  There are 16 kids and 4-5 have IEPs and receive help from the part time Special Education team.  He is thriving.  The progress he has made is amazing and he will likely stay in the mainstream environment.  The are even talking about him likely eventually losing his IEP-services (which makes me very nervous) in favor of a 504 plan-just accommodations.

    DS 09/2008

  • Thank you for telling me about your experience and for taking the time to address my concerns!



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  • Yes, those could be signs of an Autism Spectrum Disorder or it could be nothing. Many individuals on the ASD end up very successful. Many find careers, such as engineering, that suites that social skills. Many are also able to marry and live relatively normal lives. It really varies significantly. The sooner you are evaluated and can begin intervention the better the prognosis. 
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