Increased Exposure to Rigid Routines can Lead to Increased Challenging Behavior Following Changes to Those Routines: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

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Several neurodevelopmental disorders are associated with preference for routine and challenging behavior following changes to routines. We examine individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome, who show elevated levels of this behavior, to better understand how previous experience of a routine can affect challenging behavior elicited by disruption to that routine. Play based challenges exposed 16 participants to routines, which were either adhered to or changed. Temper outburst behaviors, heart rate and movement were measured. As participants were exposed to routines for longer before a change (between 10 and 80 min; within participants), more temper outburst behaviors were elicited by changes. Increased emotional arousal was also elicited, which was indexed by heart rate increases not driven by movement. Further study will be important to understand whether current intervention approaches that limit exposure to changes, may benefit from the structured integration of flexibility to ensure that the opportunity for routine establishment is also limited.

Bibliographic note

Export Date: 23 March 2015 Article in Press CODEN: JADDD Correspondence Address: Woodcock, K.A.; School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast, University Road, United Kingdom


Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2014


  • Challenging behavior, Prader–Willi syndrome, Preference for routine, Resistance to change, Restricted preferences, Temper tantrums