Helping break the cycle of ritualistic behaviours exhibited by children with autism andor severe learning difficulties is a complex task. However, research has found that staff using a range of one-to-one games based on repetition and mimicry whenever ritualistic behaviour - such as rhythmic rocking, finger flapping and hand chewing - Jis exhibited can help children to cope better. This approach, considered controversial in some quarters, is known as intensive interaction and involves staff working on a one-to-one basis with the child, using the games whenever ritualised behaviour is displayed.
In a study conducted during weekly intensive interactive sessions over the course of a year, children were filmed and examples of their ritualised behaviour measured alongside social behaviours, such as eye contact and vocalisation. Using the example of one child in particular, the researcher found that over a relatively short period ritualised actions, such as head and body banging, hand biting and rocking, disappeared during the sessions and were dramatically reduced outside them too. The child would resort to them, however, when he wanted to communicate distress or frustration.
This, the researcher concludes, indicates that not only is intensive interaction effective in controlling ritualistic behavious, but it gives children the will and ability to communicate more effectively.
Intensive Interaction: Its Effect on the Incidence of Organised Self-involvement in a Young Child with Severe and Complex Learning Difficulties by Mary Kellett, Oxford Brookes University