Repetitive arm and hand movements (complex motor stereotypies) in children

J Pediatr. 2004 Sep;145(3):391-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2004.06.014.


Objective: To characterize clinical features, associated problems, and outcomes for children with complex motor stereotypies who do not have mental retardation or pervasive developmental disorders.

Study design: We performed a record review for 40 children (63% male) aged 9 months to 17 years with complex motor stereotypies between 1993 and 2003.

Results: Age at onset was at or before 3 years in 90% of the sample. Symptoms occurred at least once daily in 90%. Excitement was identified as a trigger in 70%. Movements stopped when cued in 98%, and none had stereotypies during sleep. A total of 25% had comorbid attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and 20% had a learning disability. Family history of stereotypies was identified in 25%, tics in 33%, ADHD in 10%, and mood-anxiety disorder in 38%. Pharmacotherapy to target associated conditions was used in 40%, and behavioral therapy was used in 23%. A total of 53% identified symptoms for more than 5 years. Movements resolved in 5% of the children, improved in 33%, were unchanged in 50%, and worsened in 13%.

Conclusions: The clinical course of complex motor stereotypies appears chronic. Better understanding of the clinical features of complex stereotypies in primary care settings is essential for early diagnosis and management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arm*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / complications
  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hand*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Stereotypic Movement Disorder / complications
  • Stereotypic Movement Disorder / therapy*