My Child is Lining Things Up... Do they Have Autism?
Many times during my career I’m asked this question by concerned parents. Their child lines up their toys, or likes to sort them into colours. They are aware that this is a ‘sign’ of Autism because they may have googled it, heard it somewhere, or have seen the friends of a friends child with Autism do this OR they are just a normal mum that worries about the tinest of signs (most mum’s can relate).
Whilst this behaviour can be related to Autism, in order to gain a diagnosis of Autism a child must meet a whole array of criteria within a diagnostic manual known as the DSM-5. This array of criteria includes specific difficulties in the areas of communication, social interaction and behaviour.
If you have concerns in relation to these other areas, you can get some more information from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/diagnosis/dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria. This video https://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/2031455/video-this-is-what-autism-looks-like-in-toddlers/ is also helpful in showing the difference in behaviour in a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder versus a typically developing child.
So then, if not Autism, why do some kids like to line things up and sort things categorically? From an Occupational Therapy perspective, I can think of a few reasons. Just as some adults have households where everything has a place, and others have a household that is organised (or disorganised… think of hoarders) chaos; our visual preference for order and visual organisation can be different from one another. This also can relate to our personality type and our level of anxiety; as a person who is anxious can often seek more control and order to feel more calm.
It would therefore be useful for you to consider your child’s level of anxiety when they are displaying this behaviour, as well as their general preference for visual order in other aspects of daily life, and development in communication skills and social skills.
And also…. stop worrying; unless this behaviour is having a significant impact on their daily routines and behaviour, it's probably fine. If you are still concerned seek an assessment with an Occupational Therapist, Psychologist or Speech Pathologist.