Stereotyped behaviour in children with autism and intellectual disability: an examination of the executive dysfunction hypothesis.

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Background  Increasing attention has been paid to the executive dysfunction hypothesis argued to underpin stereotyped behaviour in autism. The aim of this study is to investigate one component of this model, that stereotyped behaviours are related to impaired generativity and compromised behavioural inhibition, by examining whether episodes of these behaviours terminate naturally without external intervention. Methods  Using a naturalistic observational methodology the stereotyped behaviours of six participants with autism were recorded in real time over periods ranging from 3.59 to 9.20 h. Data were also recorded for teaching staff interactions with participants and environmental settings (one-to-one, group and freetime). Results  In comparison with one-to-one settings stereotyped behaviours were more frequent when participants were in freetime settings with the exception of one participant. For the termination of stereotyped behaviours these behaviours stopped with no ongoing physical or verbal adult contact being evident for a median of 73.25% of the time. Additionally, for a median of 89.40% of the time stereotyped behaviour stopped without the initiation of adult contact. Discussion  The termination of bouts of stereotyped behaviour was frequently not associated with any adult contact and thus this form of external intervention. This finding warrants explanation by extending the hypothesis that compromised impaired generativity and behavioural inhibition offers a complete explanation of stereotyped behaviours.


Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2011