A characteristic – but over-simplistic – view of ritualistic behaviours in autism is that of a solitary child lining up rows of bricks or coins, spinning the wheels of toy cars, posting objects down the backs of radiators or chairs, or collecting coins, leaves, pieces of string or plumbing equipment. However, with age, particularly in the case of individuals of higher intellectual ability, the routines, rituals and stereotypes tend to become much more complex. For many individuals, too, they may play a crucial role in keeping fear and anxiety under control. As Therese Jolliffe notes:

Reality to an autistic person is a confusing, interacting mass of events, people, places, sounds and sights. There seems to be no clear boundaries, order or meaning to anything. A large part of my life is spent trying to work out the pattern behind everything. Set routines, times, particular routes and rituals all help to get order into an unbearably chaotic life. Trying to keep everything the same reduces some of the terrible fear.