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As of yet, there is no established pharmacological treatment for primary motor stereotypies, however behavioral therapy (habit reversal) has been shown to be helpful. There has been little research in normally developing (nonautistic) children. Dr. Harvey Singer, director of the pediatric neurology division at Johns Hopkins, is currently conducting several studies with the goal of one day developing an effective treatment.

Behavior therapy

Behavior therapy, administered by a psychologist, consisting of a combination of awareness training and competing response training has been an effective treatment for primary motor stereotypies.  Children are taught to recognize the presence of their repetitive behaviors.

motor stereotypies patient with Dr Harvey Singer
motor stereotypies patient with Dr Harvey Singer

For more information: Contact Tina Kline at 410-955-1960 or

Drug therapy

To date, drugs have not proven to be an effective treatment for primary motor stereotypies and are rarely prescribed. There have been no formal studies on drug treatments in normally developing children. Studies of drug treatments for stereotypies in autistic and developmentally disabled children have been inconsistent. Future studies designed to investigate newer potential medications are planned and are being developed.

Current brain imaging in affected individuals and neurochemical measurements in animal models seek to better understand the alterations underlying the movement abnormalities in the brain. The hope is that this research will one day lead to clinical trials for new and effective drug treatments.

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