Term of Art: Perseveration

“perseveration: Persistent repetition of a behavior or activity regardless of the result, or having trouble switching from one activity to another. Extreme examples of perseveration may be seen in individuals with a developmental disability or autism., for whom repetitive hand motions, rocking, or other movements are common characteristics. More typical examples in childhood might involve singing a song from a video again and again.

In a school setting, perseveration can be used to describe the fixation on a specific element in a broader task, such as spending all of the time of an exam on a single essay question. Psychologists often encounter perseveration in students they evaluate for learning disabilities. For example, if a student is told to copy six small circles in a straight row, the student may make all the circles all the way across the width of the page, drawing 30 or more. Teachers and parents often report perseverative behaviors among students with learning disabilities and ADHD. For example, if they ask the student to hop four times on the left foot, the student may hop 20 or more times or until he or she lose balance.

This type of behavior may be caused by inflexible strategies and problems in shifting from one task to another.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

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