This is the continuation of a research program that has been analyzing the abnormal stereotyped behaviors common in children and adults with mental retardation, autism, and visual impairment. Among these behaviors are body-rocking, hand-gazing repetitive focusing on objects and ideas, and maintenance of sameness and of routines. One overall aim of the project is to understand these maladaptive behaviors with a view to eliminating them.
A second aim i s the understanding of the relationship between these abnormal behaviors and similar behavior patterns that sometimes occur in apparently normal people. The proposed program has two sections that are related to one another. The first is a series of studies of the development of stereotyped behaviors in developmentally disabled individuals. The second section is a detailed experimental study of body-rocking in people with severe mental retardation. The studies of body-rocking include three subsections that are concerned with (1) the characterization of the movements; (2) analysis of the feedback maintaining body-rocking; and (3) analysis of the environmental factors that can influence the frequency of expression of the body-rocking motor program.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Human Development and Aging Subcommittee 3 (HUD)
Program Officer
Oster-Granite, Mary Lou
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University of Illinois at Chicago
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Berkson, Gershon (2002) Early development of stereotyped and self-injurious behaviors: II. Age trends. Am J Ment Retard 107:468-77
Berkson, G; Tupa, M; Sherman, L (2001) Early development of stereotyped and self-injurious behaviors: I. Incidence. Am J Ment Retard 106:539-47
Berkson, G; Andriacchi, T; Sherman, L (2001) More information on the nature of stereotyped body-rocking. Am J Ment Retard 106:205-8
Berkson, G; Andriacchi, T (2000) Body-rocking in college students and persons with mental retardation: characteristics, stability, and collateral behaviors. Res Dev Disabil 21:13-29
Rafaeli-Mor, N; Foster, L; Berkson, G (1999) Self-reported body-rocking and other habits in college students. Am J Ment Retard 104:1-10
Berkson, G; Rafaeli-Mor, N; Tarnovsky, S (1999) Body-rocking and other habits of college students and persons with mental retardation. Am J Ment Retard 104:107-16
Baranek, G T (1999) Autism during infancy: a retrospective video analysis of sensory-motor and social behaviors at 9-12 months of age. J Autism Dev Disord 29:213-24
Foster, L G (1998) Nervous habits and stereotyped behaviors in preschool children. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 37:711-7
Berkson, G (1998) Brief report: Control in highly focused top-spinning. J Autism Dev Disord 28:83-6
Baranek, G T; Foster, L G; Berkson, G (1997) Tactile defensiveness and stereotyped behaviors. Am J Occup Ther 51:91-5

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