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OT Corner: The Confusion of Sensory Craving, Stereotypy, Hyperactivity and OCD

[Source:  OT and Self Regulation]


It can be difficult to accurately distinguish between sensory craving and stereotypy. Both symptoms play a big role in autism and both are part of the ASD¹ diagnosis, so you might think they are distinct. But they’re not. They can be easily mistaken for each other and even overlap. Does it matter that we identify exactly what is going on? Yes. How can we create successful interventions without pegging the problem correctly.

Look at the descriptions and examples below and see if you can pick out inherent problems. See if you notice the areas of overlap and blurry lines between them, and also with them and hyperactivity (ADHD²) and obsessive behaviors (OCD).

Stereotypy: Rapp and Lanovaz³ say, “Stereotypy is often characterized as repetitious, invariant behavior that generates its own reinforcing consequences (rewards).” Examples are vocalizations, flicking fingers, slapping things, nail biting, and similar habitual activities. The DSM describes it in terms of motor movement or use of objects and gives these examples: “simple motor stereotypes, lining up toys, flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases.”

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