I've gotten different advice about this.
My son seems to cycle back and forth into and out of periods where his repetitive play is more and less. When it is in the more cycle, he could happily sit for hours and hours at a time doing things like pulling a toy in and out of a box/container of some type so that some of it is peeking out, then putting it back in etc. He loves this kind of peek-a-boo activity and will find ways to do it with anything, anywhere, over and over. There are certain types of toys and things too that he will play with in odd ways- scarves, long pieces of string, anything long and with a "tail" on it- he likes waving them around, hiding them under things, behind his back, behind things.
I do Floor Time with my son and try to use his repetitive play as a jumping off point for lots of other things and it works ok unless he is in what I call (with affection, truly not meaning to offend anyone) his "spazzy" end of a cycle when this is all he wants to do all the time. And obviously I have other things to do around home so cannot be engaged in Floor Time with him during all his waking hours, though I try my best.
The "professional" advice I've been given about this falls into two camps. The first is that, while he doing this type of repetitive play he is missing out on more valuable developmental types of play, so it should be discouraged and avoided and other types of play encouraged as much as possible.
The second is that this is how DS blows off steam, this is his comfort zone and that when he is tending to do these things is when he is most in need of calming himself. So not to worry about it too much if I can't get him to play in other ways or to disengage from this kind of behaviour.
I tend to feel really guilty when I'm busy and can't get down on the floor with DS to get him out of his repetitive play. This is one of the problems I'm having lately. I guess it also makes me feel sad and depressed sometimes when DS does this because it is a time when it is really obvious that DS has ASD and doesn't play normally like other kids.
DH says I stress too much about it and put too much pressure on myself about things like this. I wonder about how other moms deal with this aspect of behaviour? What advice were you given about it and what are your thoughts on what effect being left (sometimes) to (happily) engage in repetitive actions has on your child? How do you deal with the sadness of watching your little one engage in such obviously atypical behaviour?
Does your child also seem to go through cycles where his ASD behaviours are so obviously more and less?