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May 23, 2008

I don’t think that perseveration is conceptually restricted to “special interests.” Echolalia is repeating the words of others. I never do that. I only repeat my own words (when I am alone). However, to my understanding, echolalia would also be a type of perseveration. I can relate at least three dimensions of perseveration to myself: special interests, ritualized behavior, and repeating my own words.

In any event, I find perseveration to be a useful construct for explaining my behavior. Perhaps another term for perseveration would be “routine.” I found several interesting references around the web:

Key to the Asperger style of politics and media is the constant repetition of thought patterns and the imperviousness of the practitioners’ thinking to outside fact or argument. The technical name for this is perseveration which has been defined as “the persistent repetition of a response after cessation of the causative stimuli; for example, the repetition of a correct answer to one question as the answer to succeeding questions,” an almost perfect description of what regularly occurs on your average Sunday talk show. A less technical but even more generally apt definition is “continuation of something usually to an exceptional degree or beyond a desired point.”

… the use of language for communicative purposes and certain behavioral and stylistic characteristics involving repetitive or perseverative features ….

Unlike children with more garden-variety ADHD, a large group of children with Asperger’s Disorder, regarding stimulants, either have an absent, muted, or greater adverse reaction (tics, increase in repetitive and perseverative behaviors, etc.)

They [perseverations] have a common element – repetition, otherwise they differ….

Take the repetitive phrases, little ditties gleaned from the cosmos, that they repeat in a loop, sometimes for many hours; ‘to infinity and beyond,’ ‘Elliot…..idiot,’ ‘ I am not a number.’ Here, we have echolalic [translation – repeat as in an echo] tendencies, which complicate the picture.

What about the fixations or special interests? “ I am a train, not a boy, not a toy, not a girl, not a lamb,” with the elements of rhyme, meter and rhythm. Autistic children often fixate on a narrow subject that infiltrates any number of aspects, if not all, of their lives. Trying to dissect different elements may only confuse you further.

How about we try slipping in the tick or the stim? Stims and tics are terms used as shorthand to describe ‘self stimulatory behaviours.’ Many of us are familiar with hand flapping, flickering fingers and oh so many more variations on a theme….

There again, we have the OCD factor – ‘trains are busy, trains are fast, I am a train, no I can’t eat trains, eat nothing.’ The fear factor, the phobia, special interest or fixation can all play a role and confuse the picture, especially if you are not an expert. It’s hard to determine what you are witnessing, which makes it more difficult to decide what, if anything, to do about it?

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