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2.1 y.o repetitive behaviour? and speech delay...

(26 Posts)
Wiolla Mon 20-May-13 22:23:12

I know I am not the first to write about it. My son has a speech delay. He was late at working, started pointing late as well and at the moment says only mama/mummy, dada (very rarely), yes (when in the nursery) and couple of more words, not clearly.

We have seen paed recently and he told us about significant speech delay. He did not mention autism to us, but said they would keep an eye on him.

One of the things I am trying to understand whether he has repetitive play or not. Can someone perhaps explain to me what it is exactly?

The reason I ask is that my son just started a playgroup and when talking to the lady there I asked whether they had anyone with autism and she told me they had one boy. The next thing she asked was whether I considered DS to be autistic, I told her that I thought about it when he was about one, but not anymore. Before our visit to the paed, I asked her to write a short review about DS and the first thing I saw in her report, was that he has consistency to repetitive play. I am not sure whether her opinion was affected by the information I gave her or not. In any case since then I can't stop looking for things.

I feel I do not know what is normal anymore.

e.g. We went on holidays and he dragged us to go up and down on lifts in the hotel.
Or he would walk in circles in the room rolling his eyes for a few seconds and when called out, stops immediately.

he likes ramps, if he sees one he will go up and down it for a few times and then continue to walk.

at the playgroup he spent about 10 minutes pushing a pram up and down the ramp they have (but then again it was a new toy for him)

he was very attached to his pushchair on holiday, and the new thing was that he he was driven in a wrong direction he was very cross, however did not throw massive tantrums, just a bit of displeasure.

on the other hand: he points, eye contact is excellent, he communicates with gestures, initiates games, brings toys etc but does not talk. He does not play with other kids, but plays along them, he is interested in them. He is bilingual.

Maybe someone had a similar situation in the past?

thank you.

Parietal Mon 20-May-13 22:29:23

There isn't an absolute rule for what counts as repetitive play - some things would be fine in a 2 year old but a warning if the same behaviour was shown by a 6 year old.

None of the things you've mentioned strike me as strongly autistic.

Things like spinning the wheels of a toy car rather than making the car drive along the floor are typical repetitive play for young autistic children.

PJM18 Mon 20-May-13 22:41:19

Hi. I don't think his play sounds unusual. My niece is 20 months and constantly wants to push her toy buggy up and down a step. I also remember my now 6 yr old being obsessed with wheels and spinning car wheels and the wheels on his buggy as well as lining cars up, all which made me very nervous but he's not autistic and actually very intelligent. I think it's common for children to be quite repetitive in their play when they're learning and because he's bilingual his speech would be expected to be a little delayed.

madhousequeen Tue 21-May-13 06:47:41

OP, i have 2 DC, one with autism and one without.

the play around 2 years was:

DC1(autism): pushing the buggy or toy cars forth and back. building lego towers, crushing them down, buildng them up, crushing them down etc. putting nappy on dolly, taking it off, putting it on again etc...loved causevannd effect toys (where you push a button and it playes a music) this sort of thing... all very repetetive. imagination not needed.

DC2 played very differently e.g. feeding dolly, putting on nappy, tsking dolly for a walk, taking dolly to bed... building little things with lego. making pretend phone calls etc.
DC had lovely pretend play at that stage while DC1 did not have any.

ps: the bilingual upbringing should not really affect his speech development.

have you done the M-chat?

OneLittleToddleTerror Tue 21-May-13 09:34:35

Bilingualism does not cause speech delay. Don't let anyone use that to explain why your son is slow in speech. When you count the number of words a bilingual child has, you tally up the words in both languages. Say they reckon an average child has 50 words by age 2. Then he should have 50 words over both languages, but might have significant overlap. For example my DD is bilingual but stronger in English. All her sentences are in English grammar, but she would use Cantonese words in it. Like she would say 'my doy' for my bag, and 'maah me' for wipe me.

OneLittleToddleTerror Tue 21-May-13 09:35:51

I mean she'll also do 'my bag' and 'wipe me' too. She says a lot of her daily things in both languages. She's also 2.1yo.

Wiolla Tue 21-May-13 10:15:57

Thanks everyone for your kind posts.

madhousequeen I cannot say all his plays are repetitive, it is mainly when he sees something new and it looks like he is trying to work out how it works. He also likes musical toys and pushing the buttons, though as of recently started to be a bit less interested. However, he is very musical and sings very clearly all the tunes of the songs, he also loves drums and and can beat to the tune quite clearly. On the other hand, he is fascinated with cars. He would sometimes move it along the floor and try to bush against some object as chair, or sofa. He can sometimes observe how the wheels are moving when he would move the car, lie on the floor watching the wheels move. In terms of pretend play, yes he would feed the toys occasionally or sip from the cup and let us sip from the cup. He would talk on the phone, or open a book and read to himself in his own language. If we are talking he would sometimes chip in and start talking in his own language.

How was your son with the communication? Did he talk at all? And as he got old did the repetitive play stay or became less? I have done the chat long time ago, but probably do it again.

I am not being in denial or anything, but sometimes I think he is maybe just slow. I was really panicking when he was 1 y.o, not walking and did not seem to know his name. But it came a long pretty quickly and he started walking when he was 14 months. He was not pointing ( he would point at things in the book, but not like look what I see sort of thing), but then around 19 months he started doing it and around 22 months the sign for Give it to me appeared and I always understand him.

Re bilingual, my personal opinion that nobody knows how bilingual thing actually works , I think like in anything there are people who pick up things sooner than later. At least I know that he understands in both languages ok, which is reassuring.

We are also starting portage next week. Not sure what to expect. Can they actually assess how developed the child is?

madhousequeen Tue 21-May-13 10:35:22

DC1 (with ASD) was pointing by 2 and had about 100 single words (all nouns) but would not use them to communicate (e.g. he could point at an apple in a book and say 'apple') but would not be able to say 'apple' to me to tell me he wanted one. hope that makes sense.

communication was partly through pointing and mainly through crying/throwing tantrums). also, receptive language (understanding) was and is severely delayed.

the relatively large vocabulary fooled us (well, it fooled the HV and GP who refused to refer DC to SALT as he had many words - even though I said the understanding was just not there - just an accumulation of nouns).

TwoTearsInABucket Tue 21-May-13 10:54:34

Hi, DS was diagnosed as ASD last october and he is 5. It was always in our minds (and certain health professionals minds) from when he was very little. Because he is also hard of hearing he was constantly observed so I guess we were more aware of his behaviour.

He had quite repetitive behaviour inc. pulling the cord on a musical toy for 3/4 an hour or more, opening and shutting doors for over an hour or more, as he got older he would play with his magnetic letters for hours and not really be interested in pretend play toys. He is just starting to now. He knew what to do with them when he was smaller he just never did it out of choice.

He said he first word at 2.2 years and now he talks much more but it isn't the same as other 5 year olds. he is quite repetitive in what he says. It took him a long time. we had to teach him how to use the words Yes and No. he still says "you" when referring to himself, or uses his name.

He didn't walk till he was 2 years old. I think 14 months for walking is pretty normal. DD isn't ASD and she didn't walk till 14 months.
DS also took a long time to point, I mean, he didn't till he was about 3. And now he doesn't really show us things as such he is more pointing things out to himself. He does say stuff to us in an excited way and expects us to repeat it back. He will only answer adults or his sister, but won't answer questions that children ask him.

There have been people who thought he was on the spectrum and others who didn't. DS's nursery teacher thought that he just liked to use a toy (magnetic letters) until he had filled himself up with it. I like that description. He also didn't play with children and still doesn't really - although this is changing now that he has started school. But it is his own style of play.

I spent months/years agonising and it was probably worst at around your son's age. All the health professionals were very "wait and see" about it but I wanted to know straight away! We got a diagnosis in the end because the paediatrician knew it would help for starting school (in my opinion).

Even now I wonder if it is actually Autism or something else with DS.

Has your son had a hearing test?

madhousequeen Tue 21-May-13 11:04:52

yes,yes to hearing test. GP or HV should be able to refer.

HelloMaryLou Tue 21-May-13 11:15:20

Does your DS find anything funny? Laugh at anything? Enjoy any toys with merriment? If you pull funny faces to make him laugh, does he respond? Does he know how to kiss and hug? If you asked him for a cuddle, or suggested his teddy needed a hug, could/would he? Does he have a favourite member of the family? How does he interact with that person?

in short, putting aside the words and the numbers and the walking and all the technical stuff - what is his personality like? What are his strong likes and dislikes? I think thinking about that will help you look at things from a different perspective.

KatoPotato Tue 21-May-13 11:21:33

Lifts and ramps are fun! And these musical toys with buttons are designed to appeal based on research of what babies and toddlers enjoy!

I think the more you look for something the more you'll find it. Like when you were pregnant and you'd think about movement and there wouldn't be any?

I think the playgroup teacher may have thought you were concerned about autism because you asked her first?

Get a hearing test, try to relax and see what develops!

Wiolla Tue 21-May-13 11:50:47

He was referred to hearing test, but I did not get a letter yet. Frankly, I do not think he has a hearing problem. TwoTearsInABucket the agony thing you mentioned is so true, on the one hand once you have a diagnosis you know where to go, but until you don't have it, you still have a hope that he will outgrow some things. If I had another child developing normally I probably would have been able to see the difference, but at this stage it is only a guessing game.

I agree regarding professionals, they all are very careful, but I suppose no one can say exactly at this stage. The paed said that he eye contact was absolutely wonderful, he even approached the doctor at some point and gave him a hug ( after a while though, not immediatelysmile). In his nursery they said he is ok, like musical toys, has good attention span, does what he is told.

TwoTearsInABucket does your son go to the usual school? Did you use portage?

Wiolla Tue 21-May-13 11:59:33

HelloMaryLou and KatoPotato your posts do make me look at it form a different perspective.

He is smiley, if I ask him to give me a kiss, he would do it, when in the mood, he often comes to me for a hug, he laughs a lot. One of his recent games is take my slipper and run away from me and so that I would chase him and then he happily gives the slipper back. He likes nursery rhymes with actions and can mimic many of them. If he is hurt, and I tell him -do you want a hug, he would come to me. He absolutely adores my mum, she lives in a different country but we communicate on skype daily, he always smiles when he sees he. When she was visiting recently, he had no problem staying with her and followed her everywhere. He recognises all the family and himself on the pictures.

If I make faces he laughs and tries to repeat and sometimes you can see that he holds his laughsmile), but the again he does not mimic animal noises...

He loves music, cartoons, books, likes being a part of the process. If I am making porridge he wants to see it, if his Dad opens a dishwasher he runs to help.

Now when he communicates with gestures and sounds I actually appreciate it as it is so wonderful when you get response.

TwoTearsInABucket Tue 21-May-13 12:10:54

I had to google portage blush and no we didn't use portage. He went to a mainstream nursery but it was in a different country. We also went to a deaf pre-school where he had one-to-one sessions. It was obviously designed for hearing issues but actually it covered a lot of the stuff that DS needed anyway.
He now goes to a mainstream school but he has quite a lot of help from a TA. They are going to start a social skills group soon which I hope will help him a lot as his lack of social skills are my main worry now!

I am a lot more relaxed these days but it still kills me when people say "don't worry", it's one of the more annoying pieces of advice wink. My parents would say it all the time, along with "it'll be fine". Now they accept that DS is a bit different.

Although I still worry, I do love watching DS when he is obviously enjoying something, even if it isn't quite what everyone else enjoys. It took me a long time to see what DS could do, and appreciate that, rather than concentrating on what he couldn't do. I have to snap myself out of that still now.

It is great that your DS has good eye contact and that he hugs the Dr! That is lovely.

I am trying to say don't worry, without actually saying don't worry! I agree with Kato try to relax, even though it is really difficult.

blueberryupsidedown Tue 21-May-13 12:44:06

There is something called schematic play, it's when children repeat the same pattern of play which they find satisfying. There are many types of schematic play, including pushing/pulling (transporting); trajectory (throwing toys about, or play with trains cars anything with wheels); rotation- anything with wheels; envelopment (playing in dens, in tents, under blankets, in large cardboard boxes); scattering (emptying boxes and boxes of items in no particular order); stacking or grouping by size; etc etc. If you search Schematic Play online you will find plenty of examples.

As a childminder, I try to spot/identify patterns of play and always note if I think it's schematic play, which is different from the kind of repetitive play that an autistic child might have. But only a professional would be able to assess properly.

My son also has a speech disorder, and he did have schematic plays which changed over time. He spent a lot of time ordering things by size and he was super quick at puzzles/peg puzzles. Now he is very much into cars and he can recognise any brand of cars (mini, skoda, BMW, mazda, .....) partly by the shape of the car and by the logo.

Many professionals would recommend that you find ways to provide yoour child with opportunities to explore his schematic play by finding alternative toys or objects for him to play with. Does he have a toy buggy? very popular here with boys and girls. Little pull along toys with strings? some children who like ramps will like stepping stones, maybe have something in the garden for him to go up/down? If you let me know what he likes I can give you more ideas.

HelloMaryLou Tue 21-May-13 13:05:19

It's great that your DS has the capacity for caring, showing affection, and has a sense of humour. They are all very positive signs.

Most parents have probably seen behaviour come and go with their DCs (especially first children, because they are not sure what's within the "normal" boundaries) that give them temporary cause for concern, A lot of the time, it passes.

My DS, when he was 20m, for example, insisted on only drawing using the black crayon, for months. That concerned me a lot, back then. There is lots of sofa psychology about choosing black, with its negative connotations. Now I realise it probably just made more of an exciting contrast on white paper, but when he was 20m or so, I was worried about it. He's aged 4 now and he draws and paints using all the colours available and the more colourful, the better. He wouldn't dream of only using the colour black!

He also used to line all his toy cars up end to end in one big line over and again which is a classic sign of autism (I believe). However now at age 4 he is as "normal" (for want of a better word) as can be and definitely has no behavioural issues. I remember the worrying though. Imaginative play isn't as early for some as others. My DS was disdainful of imaginative play when he was younger, now he's constantly making up dialogues and stories with his toys, and playing pretend. I would say he has only really started proper imaginative play aged 3 or so and even then it was probably more towards 4 that he really got into it. If I gave him a toy teacup aged 2 he would probably have thrown it at me smile.

Wiolla Tue 21-May-13 22:14:37


Thank you for your post and sharing your experience with me. Does you son talk now? I hope everything will progress very well in the social group for your son.

It is very difficult not to compare your child especially when you feel that he is behind, but life does go on and I try and teat him as a "normal" child.

I am also wondering how did you go about potty training? I would love to train him while it is summertime, but absolutely not sure if he totally gets it.

redwellybluewelly Tue 21-May-13 22:28:50

Lots of great advice already but I wanted to say that IMHO don't discount a hearing test. DD is coming up for 3, between 9-18 months she had colds and coughs and it transpired also caused 80% hearing loss so her listening was poor and not only did it influence speech development but also how she played.

I also think your son was about average to walk, some children do simply take longer to do things. My DD has been under paed care since birth so we watch her like a hawk, her understanding has always been advanced but the expressive communication delayed. Now she is talking she has launched directly into sentences which are functional, so when she does speak its worth listening to. She'd never point at every car and say 'car' or point at flowers and name the colours but she would say 'hiya car, mummy car noisy, oh car gone' or 'buzz bee flower, more bee, bye bye bee'

We have has superb support from nursery, she goes FT and it is heartbreaking sometimes seeing her delays against others (she also has mild cerebral palsy) but we see she has strengths as well, very physical, very caring, thoughtful and extremely social and cheeky.

I am rambling, but she also 'fills herself up' on a toy or game and certainly ticks all the schematic play boxes one by one.

Wiolla Tue 21-May-13 22:28:53


Thank you very much for your post, I have not heard about schematic play. I will need to read more about it. But the do differ from repetitive play?

I would really welcome you advice with the activities.

You are right he likes stairs, we have about 3 steps in the garden and he always likes to go up and down on them. But he is very careful, so normally he would request assistance to go down. He also likes pushing scooter, when we "take his scooter for a walk" he just pushes it along and can do it for a long time. Maybe it is a good idea to get him a toy buggy. Hope it is ok for a boy to have onesmile.

How would you recommend to distract him if he is running up and down the ramp? Sometimes I have a feeling that this is his way of exploring things and he is really trying to understand how things work, he is very thorough in things.

In the house he likes moving cars and recently started doing it on the walls and had a bit of an argument with him regarding this todaysmile

He also likes exploring spaces, sometimes he tries to squeeze himself in the smallest window of space and then gets upset when he gets stucksmile)

These are think are the main things, apart from pushing the buttons on musical toyssmile

TwoTearsInABucket Tue 21-May-13 22:39:12

He definitely does talk now, just not quite in the same way as other 5 year olds.
it is a very positive thing that your son finds face pulling funny and will try to copy. And the fact that he wants to participate is also a great thing. DS wasn't ever interested in what i was doing when he was two.

blueberry has a great point about schematic play. And what she says about extending/exploring their interests is really good.

DS wasn't dry until he was 4. We tried at 3 and it wasn't good for either of us. But then, DD didn't potty train until two and a half. With any child, waiting till they are ready is probably a good idea. Although some may need encouragement. It doesn't hurt to let them walk around with a naked bottom in summer, especially in the garden. I made a hash of potty training and hate that I will have to do it again (due another DC in 6 months). Worst bit of raising a child IMO!!!

your son sounds lovely smile

blueberryupsidedown Wed 22-May-13 10:19:02

I'm not exactly sure how schematic play differs from repetitive play, I have never worked with autistic children, I would home that someone with more expertise would come along and be able to explain it. I have had a search on youtube, and there are lots of clips about autism and repetitive play/lining up toys, which might be interesting to watch but I'm not sure of the actual value of it. Somehow it feels wrong to be watching them...

Yes there are toy buggies that are not so completely pink (ELC used to have one). Nice pull along dog with a good size rope; stepping stones ( ), a scuttlebug (; a mini trempoline.

Blocks to make towers and knock down; carboard boxes to make towers; he might also like play dens (a tent); large cardboard boxes to sit it; he might like to put things into things, such as putting letters in a cardboard letter box, and wodden peg puzzes of any kind.

Something else that one of my minded children liked was a tube of tennis balls. You get them cheap at supermarkets, most will have four tennis balls. He spent ages emptying the tube (it's a tin tube) and chasing the balls and putting them back in.

A tea set might be interesting, or containers that he can transfer something into something else (sand pit with plastic cups, or with dry oat porridge). You could give him a spoon to fill in the pots (I use old yogurt pots they are just the right size). He might enjoy pouring water out of a tea pot into cups.

Wiolla Wed 22-May-13 21:59:28

HelloMaryLou - thank you again for the support. It is very reassuring. Of course I realise that what is meant to be is meant to be, but there is always a space for hope.
He actually tries to drink from small tea cups or tries to eat a plastic bananasmile. I am also thinking that perhaps there can be a difference between the ways girls and boys play. For example, cars have always been a preference, but baby-doll was not accepted into a circle of friends, he did feed it with a cookie the other day, but lost interest because it is more fun to feed mummy and daddy than the doll which cannot really eat.

Wiolla Wed 22-May-13 22:04:59

redwellybluewelly - thank you for shareing. I also sometimes feel so sorry for my little one when he is at the nursery and not as advanced as his peers, I have an instant urge to protect him more, which may not serve to his benefit though.

I will try the hearing test, hope to get the referral soon. I remember the GP said once that he had lots of wax in his year, who knows, maybe there is a glued ear or so. Although, he seems to be ok to hear, he even heard the airplane the other day, when he was in the house with me. Still worth checking.

Did you do portage or first visits team?

Wiolla Wed 22-May-13 22:13:55


Thank yousmile I am so glad you son can communicate and is making progress. I talked to the lady at the play group on Tuesday and DS was next to me holding my hand and playing sorter at the same time. She said that he actually did the sorting very well and the fact that he can differentiate the colours is quite advanced for his age. DS was watching other kids running around chasing each other in a circle and started smiling. I think it was the first time the lady saw him smiling and he smiled at her as well. She looked impressed as he normally is not the happiest there (the place is still new for him). He threw a big fit when I left though, but calmed down eventually.

Potty training...a real dilemma, but then again looks like summer is not really coming, maybe I will wait until July when it is warmer.

Best of luck with a new DCsmile)

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