HomeScienceTest for repetitive behaviors flags autism in adults

Test for repetitive behaviors flags autism in adults


A new self-assessment that measures the frequency and severity of repetitive behaviors could help diagnose autism in adults.

These behaviors include common habits and routines, such as lining up objects or arranging them in patterns, fiddling obsessively with objects, or insisting that aspects of a daily routine remain exactly the same.

Autism experts at Cardiff University and La Trobe University, Melbourne, tested the assessment on British and Australian adults (311 participants in total) with and without an autism diagnosis.


While adults without an autism diagnosis showed a high tendency for repetitive behaviors, the individuals with an autism diagnosis consistently scored significantly higher on this measure.

“Many measures used for research and diagnoses of autism rely on parents, teachers, or caregivers to report the behaviors of individuals with the condition,” says Professor Sue Leekam of Cardiff University and director of the Wales Autism Research Centre.

“What our research has done is develop a test where individuals can report on their own behaviors, for both research and clinical purposes, ensuring we get a fuller picture of the way that these behaviors affect people,” she adds.

Repetitive behaviors are not just common in autism, they are also a symptom associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Parkinson’s disease, and Tourette syndrome.

The test on its own cannot diagnose autism because repetitive behaviors are common to other conditions and because repetitive behaviors are only one criterion for a diagnosis of autism. The test has been designed to help clinicians in the diagnostic process.

What is remarkable is that increased behaviors normally assessed in infancy can also be measured in a self-report form in adulthood.

The next phase of the research will be to trial the test on people of all ages with autism before implementing its use in clinics across the UK. People who are older than 18 are encouraged to participate in the research online by visiting

The findings are reported in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Source: Cardiff University

This text is published here under a Creative Commons License.
Author: Chris Jones-Cardiff
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