Autism and Deafness: Guide

Joyce Sewell-Rutter and Stephanie Dawson | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Behaviours and stereotypies

These can be varied, significant and hard to manage.

  • Play
  • Transition
  • Socialisation
  • Emotions
  • Theory of mind
  • Language delay

In some children deafness may result in atypical or delayed behaviours.  However where autism also occurs in deaf children many of these behaviours have specific characteristics evident in sign, gaze, gesture and voice.  They may also be extended in social contexts and heightened to such a degree that they resemble autistic indicators.


These are self-stimulatory behaviours that refer to repetitive body movements or repetitive movement of objects.  This behaviour is common in autism.  Some examples are: headbanging, stimming and flapping; spinning wheels on a toy.  These are considered part of self-regulating behaviour.

Special interests

These are when there is such a heightened interest that it excludes many others resulting in an unusual depth of knowledge and such a fascination there is a reluctance to leave the object or subject alone.  Practice has moved from depriving a child of this special interest to incorporating it into learning and motivation.