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Primary (Non-Autistic) Motor Stereotypies

Primary motor stereotypies (also called stereotypic movement disorder), are rhythmic, repetitive, fixed, predictable, purposeful, but purposeless movements that occur in children who are otherwise developing normally. Examples of primary motor stereotypies are flapping and waving of the arms, hand flapping, head nodding and rocking back and forth.

motor stereotypies patient with Dr Singer

These movements usually appear in the first three years of a child’s life and often continue. Though primary motor stereotypies are fairly common, the cause is unknown.

Motor stereotypies can also occur in children who have developmental problems, for example a child with autism, mental retardation, or vision or hearing impairment. In such cases where a behavioral or neurological disorder has been diagnosed, the movements are called secondary motor stereotypies.

Thanks to generous support from the Nesbitt-McMaster Foundation, we offer this online resource for parents like you who are looking for answers.

Learn more about primary motor stereotypies:


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