Complex Motor Sterotypies

Our beautiful daughter, whom we'll refer to as Pickle on this blog, has Complex Motor Stereotypies.  Before I get into what CMS is I will give you some insight into what we noticed first.  From the time she was a baby we noticed that she would flap a lot and excitedly says "aaaaahhhhh" numerous times a day.  It seemed especially pronounced when she was excited and we just assumed this was her little "thing" she did when she was super excited.  Last summer, when she was two years old and I was home with her again full-time (I'm a teacher) I noticed it in a different light.  It was now starting to worry me.  To top it all off...I am a special education teacher, so there are certain things that children do that are naturally supposed to be red flags to me.  Flapping is a big one; so is echolalia. Our daughter had both of these occurring on a regular basis. However, she was not developmentally delayed in any area.  Although she echoed (repeated) a great deal of what we said, she also had spontaneous speech that was used to interact with people in her environment. Socially, she was fine, but we also did not have her around many other kids since she is an only child.  We did notice that she is shy around other children, but not withdrawn.  

So, that summer I spend hours and hours researching "motor sterotypies" or more specifically flapping, in normally developing children.  That is when I found the Johns Hopkins Medical Center website and the work of Dr. Harvey Singer.  Here is what CMS is (CMS is a subset of Primary Motor Sterotypies):

Primary motor stereotypies (also called stereotypic movement disorder), are rhythmic, repetitive, fixed, predictable, purposeful, but purposeless movements that occur in children who are otherwise developing normally. Examples of primary motor stereotypies are flapping and waving of the arms, hand flapping, head nodding and rocking back and forth. 

Thankfully, CMS does not impact a child, in and of itself, developmentally or cognitively.  It can have social implications when the child gets older and when the child is old enough he or she can participate in behavior therapy to become more aware of the movements and to control them more.  Unfortunately, there is little known about what causes Primary Motor Stereotypies in normally developing children.  Our first action was to discuss it with our pediatrician.  He reassured us that Pickle is not on the Autism Spectrum and told us that if it would make us feel better we should indeed see a Pediatric Neurologist to get a second opinion and more information.  Pickle was diagnosed and we simply accept her flapping as just a part of her own unique behaviors.  I am going to include a video here in hopes that a parent seeking help for the "weird habit/quirk" that their child has, will stumble upon it and be able to ask if their child may have this.  I highly recommend Dr. Harvey Singer and you should definitely read all the material on the Johns Hopkins website HERE.