Stereotyped behaviours, also described as stereotypies (singular is stereotypy), are both terms that are used in clinical assessment to describe repetitive behaviours. These would include those behaviours that we would describe as stims – such as hand flapping and pacing, rocking and echolalia.

Stereotyped behaviours aren’t only used to describe repetitive behaviours in neurodivergent people – they can be applied to anyone who demonstrates recognisable, repetitive, restrictive behaviours that appear, to the outsider, as if they are without any obvious purpose. Indeed, by definition, stereotypies are behaviours without any apparent goal → click here for Merriam-Webster’s particularly ignorant dictionary definition. This term is usually used in relation to mental health, behavioural differences, learning disabilities and neurodivergencies. I cannot find a single example where it is being used positively, despite the very important role that many of our stereotyped behaviours (our stims) play in emotional regulation.

Personally, I don’t like the term, I find it derogatory, though I understand that this is a useful term for clinicians to use. It’s also a confusing term because it has two completely different meanings. Stereotypes, rather than stereotyped behaviours, is used to describe inaccurate, and usually negative, views of others. Most often in groups that they are not a member of and often of which they have no understanding or experience of what it means to be autistic being a prime example!