Skip Navigation
 
 
 
 xxx
Pediatric Neurology photo banner
 
Print This Page
Share this page: More
 

Signs and Symptoms

Children with primary motor stereotypies perform repetitive, rhythmic, fixed movements that don’t seem to have a purpose, but are predictable in pattern and location on the body. These movements are involuntary and typically last for seconds to minutes, appear multiple times a day, and are associated with periods of engrossment, excitement, stress, fatigue or boredom. Sometimes they’re misdiagnosed as obsessive-compulsive disorders or tics.

Understandably, motor stereotypies are often a cause of concern for parents. Will your child adapt well in school? Will this just go away? Could these movements be a sign of something more serious? Get answers to frequently asked questions about primary motor stereotypies.

Types and symptoms of primary motor stereotypies:

  • Common – As the name suggests, these behaviors are very common and include activities like thumb sucking, nail/lip biting, hair twirling, body rocking, self-biting, teeth clenching/grinding and head banging. Common motor stereotypies are often labeled “habits” and typically fade with age — though research has identified their presence in college students.
     
  • Head nodding – Child nods his head from side to side (“no”), up and down (“yes”), or shoulder to shoulder. The nodding is occasionally accompanied by up-gaze eye deviations or movements of the hands or feet.
     
  • Complex motor – Movements include hand/arm flapping or waving, wiggling fingers in front of the face, rotating or opening and closing the hands, and finger wiggling. Generally a child will simultaneously perform the movement bilaterally (on both the right and left sides). Learn how your child can be part of a clinical study on complex motor stereotypies.

motor stereotypies patient with parent and Dr Singer

When to see a doctor:

If your child has stereotypic movements without other signs of a developmental disability, it’s very possible that what you’re seeing is a primary motor stereotypy disorder. Either way, we advise that you visit your pediatrician to rule out other causes.

If your child has already been diagnosed with a movement disorder and you would like a second opinion, make an appointment with Johns Hopkins Pediatric Neurology.

 

Online Seminar: Headaches in Children

Find out what parents need to know.

Related Articles

Holly Litchicum: An Ongoing Medical Mystery
Born with epilepsy, global developmental delays, and a suspected genetic disorder, Holly has been a patient at Hopkins since she was 7 weeks old. At Hopkins Children’s, a multidisciplinary team was put together to tackle each of Holly’s problems in tandem.

Easing the Struggle for Words
Learn how Johns Hopkins neurologists are helping people with autism and other cognitive impairments improve their communication.

 

Out-of-State and International Patients - Find Out More

 
 
 
 
 

© The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System. All rights reserved.

Privacy Policy and Disclaimer