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How To Stop Autistic Child From Hitting

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Physiological Reasons For Self

How To Get Your Autistic Child To Stop Hitting | Autism Tips by Maria Borde


Some researchers have suggested that the levels of certain neurotransmitters are associated with self-injurious behavior. Beta-endorphins are endogenous opiate-like substances in the brain, and self-injury may increase the production and/or the release of endorphins. As a result, the individual experiences an anesthesia-like effect and, ostensibly, he/she does not feel any pain while engaging in the behavior . Furthermore, the release of endorphins may provide the individual with a euphoric-like feeling. Support for this explanation comes from studies in which drugs that block the binding at opiate receptor sites can successfully reduce self-injury .

Research on laboratory animals as well as research on administering drugs to human subjects have indicated that low levels of serotonin or high levels of dopamine are associated with self-injury . In a study on a heterogeneous population of intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals, Greenberg and Coleman administered drugs, such as reserpine and chlorpromazine, to reduce serotonin levels. These researchers observed a dramatic increase in both aggressive and self-aggressive behavior. Drugs that elevate dopamine levels, such as amphetamines and apomorphine, have been shown to initiate self-injurious behavior .







What Causes Distressed Behaviour

Behaviour has a function, and there could be a number of reasons for it. These may include difficulty in processing information, unstructured time,sensory differences, achange in routine, transition between activities, or physical reasons like feeling unwell, tired or hungry. Not being able to communicate these difficulties can lead toanxiety, anger and frustration, and then to an outburst of distressed behaviour.

Why These Behaviours Happen

Many autistic children have difficulties with communication, which can affect their behaviour.

Some things that can cause these behaviours include:

  • being oversensitive to things like bright lights or loud noises
  • being undersensitive to things like touch or pain
  • anxiety, especially when routines suddenly change
  • not being able to make sense of what’s going on around them
  • being unwell or in pain

These behaviours are not your or your child’s fault.

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When To Seek Professional Help

Biting of any kind is distressing, but when it occurs frequently across a number of different settings, is severe, causes the child distress, or is causing serious injury, contact a professional right away. Behavior modification techniques such as those listed above are often effective, but there are other avenues of treatment. Some, however, are aversive techniques that should be discussed fully with a professional before being implemented. Other strategies may include dietary changes or prescribing medications, which would also require professional intervention and supervision.

Question: Why Do Children Engage In Head Banging

How To Get Your Autistic Child To Stop Hitting


Headbanging and autism can be a disturbing combination. While its terrifying to witness as a parent, its important to note its a surprisingly common behavior in many children with autism. Up to 20 percent of babies and toddlers bang their heads purposefully. Among them, boys are three times more likely to engage in this behavior than girls. Headbanging often starts at around six months, peaking anywhere between 18-24 months of age. This habit can stretch out for months , but most children outgrow this behavior by the age of three to four. This behavior may extend later for children diagnosed with autism, developmental delays, or who have suffered from neglect.

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Manage Avoidance And Escape Biting

It is much easier and more reinforcing to reward appropriate behaviors than it is to change and/or redirect inappropriate ones. It is particularly difficult to manage challenging behaviors that are the result of a desire to escape or avoid a task or situation. If the child is allowed to forego the task because of the biting, then they learn biting is a great way to get out of doing what they are supposed to do. This particular problem may require professional help, but if possible, insist the child complete the task once they have calmed down and are safe. Also examine whether the task is too difficult or is being requested at a bad time for the child. Again, try not to overreact. Use a firm and serious voice.

Why Children With Autism Bite Themselves

If youre struggling with your child with Autism biting themselves, it may be due to something called stimming. Stimming is a term that refers to self-stimulatory behaviors. You may notice your own stimming behaviors when you think about how you tap your fingers on your desk at work when youre thinking, or how you hum when you walk down a long hall by yourself. You do these things almost unconsciously as a result of how youre feeling. In a way, they may improve emotions you dislike, they may help you focus, or they may help you tune out of an uncomfortable situation.

When a child bites themselves as a stim, they are reacting to something they are feeling or experiencing. They may be overwhelmed, overstimulated, tired, uncomfortable, etc. It may also be an unwanted response to boredom.

The CDC reports that almost one third of children with Autism exhibit behaviors that lead to self-harm. If your child seems to have a stim that causes them to bite themselves, try to find comfort in knowing that its a common behavior. We will discuss strategies that can help your child move on toward safer, healthier stims later on in this post as well.

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Signs Of Social Difficulties

  • Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or whats going on around them.
  • Doesnt know how to connect with others, play, or make friends.
  • Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled.
  • Doesnt play pretend games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways.
  • Has trouble understanding feelings or talking about them.
  • Doesnt seem to hear when others talk to them.
  • Doesnt share interests or achievements with others .

Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorder. Many kids on the autism spectrum seem to prefer to live in their own world, aloof and detached from others.

How To Handle An Aggressive Autistic Child

How to Stop a Child with Autism from Hitting | Autism ABA Strategies

This article was written by Luna Rose. Luna Rose is an autistic community member who specializes in writing and autism. She holds a degree in Informatics and has spoken at college events to improve understanding about disabilities. Luna Rose leads wikiHow’s Autism Project.There are 33 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 39,586 times.

Autistic children tend to be non-aggressive by nature, but sometimes a child turns aggressive when under extreme stress. It’s natural to feel a mix of emotions about this, from worry to guilt to fear. This wikiHow will guide you in handling a difficult situation and helping a suffering child.

This article focuses on children who lash out at others. If the child is only hurting themselves, check out How to Redirect an Autistic Child’s Harmful Stims.

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Autism And Aggression: Intervention Strategies

Aggression in children with autism can take many forms, such as hitting, kicking, scratching, biting or destroying property. A childs aggression can be directed at self or others, and can be scary for everyone involved. Not every child with autism displays aggression. But for parents and teachers that do have to deal with their childs outbursts of rage, feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and embarrassment often ensue.

Aggression is most likely a side effect of communication and/or coping issues. So when a child with autism becomes aggressive, there is a reason. For instance, many children with autism have a hard time with change, so changes to their routine can cause them to get upset. Its up to us to figure out why they are being aggressive and to teach them that 1) aggression will no longer be reinforced and 2) other things they can do instead of being aggressive.

Here are some strategies to use to get your child out of the cycle of aggression:

Teach Alternative Behaviors. Once you know the reason why your child becomes aggressive, the child should be taught how to get what he wants without hitting. For example, say your student throws items whenever he is asked to do independent seat work. You might try teaching him to say, I need help or Break, please. You may also need to figure out how to make certain tasks easier for the child. As time goes on, you can teach him to work independently for longer and longer periods of time.

Ways To Handle Violent Autistic Behaviour

Responding to violent autistic behavior in toddlers and children requires significant parental considerations. Interspersions, not intensities will worsen the behavior further for the child. For example, lets take Adam, who likes hit the child next to him in school because he likes to hear the other childs reactionHe hit me! Or, lets talk about Sophie who, out of jealousy, throws her classmates stationaries off the table and on the ground.

For children with high functioning or borderline autism, it is often the attention they get from being difficult that keeps children into the habit. For parents, the time to act is now! If you dont intervene today, the problem would only grow, not to mention that there can be another child victimized tomorrow.

While many of you may have taken temporary measures to alleviate this problem, unless you have a longer-term autistic behavior control strategy in place, the child might end up hurting several others and in worst cases, him/herself.

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  • Redirect To Other Behaviour

    How to Stop a Child with Autism from Hitting

    Tell the person what they need to do instead of the behaviour, eg “David, hands down”. Use visual cues such as picture symbols to back up instructions. Redirect to another activity that is incompatible with the behaviour and provide praise and reinforcement for the first occurrence of appropriate behaviour, eg “David, that’s excellent playing with your train”.

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    Support For You As A Parent/carer

    There are a number of ways in which you could get some support.

    • Meet up with other carers, or get support from a local National Autistic Society branchor group, community service or family supportservice in your area. Other local support groups and services are listed in ourAutism Services Directory.
    • Get ideas from other families, and share your tips with them in our Online Community.
    • Request a social care needs assessment for your family member and for yourself as acarer. You may be able to get respite care or the help of an outreach team who can support you with behaviour strategies.
    • Get support from a counsellor who understands autism and can support you and your family.

    Three: Implement Strategies For Managing Biting Based On Cause

    Gathering ABC information for a few weeks may actually give parents and caregivers the answers they are seeking as to why their child is biting without the need for professional intervention . Causes for biting can be as unique as the child, but some of the most common are:

    • Fatigue
    • Normal developmental stage
    • Frustration/anger
    • Escape/avoidance

    Even while collecting data, it is important to attempt to curb the behavior, so during the observation process, use these immediate interventions to keep everyone safe and to let your child know biting is never acceptable.

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    Use Time To Decrease Transitional Tantrums

    Many children have trouble leaving preferred places and activities. This is a BIG one for my 5 year old. There were times I wouldn’t even take him to our neighborhood park because I was so scared of that awful moment when we had to leave. He was unpredictable and erratic. Sometimes he would scream and fall to the ground, or try to run into a busy street to get away from me, or lash out to hit me. It broke my heart and downright scared me. One thing that has been life-changing for us is using Minute Warnings/Timers: Your child may need a 5 minute, 2 minute, or 1 minute warning before there is a change of activity. These warnings help the children prepare for the transition. They will begin to learn that the warning comes and then the change comes. Eventually, the minute warnings become routine, even if the next task is not.

    We set a timer on our iphone. “In five minutes you need to take a bath.” “In two minutes we are leaving the park.”This helps a child feel more in control without controlling us. When the timer goes off you have to carry through every single time. We did this continuously for two weeks before we started to see results. Now it’s been years and it still works. Set your boundaries, stick to them, and follow through.

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    How To Stop Your Autistic Child From Banging Their Head | Autism Tips by Maria Borde

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    General Tips Ideas And Recommendations

    There are some tips that could apply to SIB in general and specifically to head banging, no matter what the function of this behavior is.

    1. Always look for advice from your health professionals.

    2. A Functional Analysis by a behavior therapist will help produce a good behavior intervention plan.

    3. Watch out for precursor behaviors :

    • mood changes
    • verbal escalation
    • anxiety

    If you can act on those behaviors you may be able to avoid the SIB situation altogether.A tip for those situations may be to redirect him into another task or distract her with a question : What was your favorite toy? What was your favorite food?

    4. Track behaviors to understand their function

    5. Understand triggers

    6. Act upon those triggers

    7. Medication may be required for severe or long-lasting cases.

    What To Do When Your Child Hits You

    Stay Calm: Although it might sound pretty obvious, the first step is staying calm. When you stay calm it shows your child that you are in control. Which, can represent huge support for him/her during a frustrating moment.

    Never Punish/Yell/Spank: Keep in mind that your childs behavior is not personal. It is not that he/she means to hurt you. If you react with similar behaviors, you will only reinforce the conduct in your child, and somehow he/she will learn that it is okay to express his/her feelings in that way.

    Stop The Behavior: Stopping the behavior is the first step to properly managing anger episodes.

    Gently grab your childs arms to stop him from hitting you, and then calmly but firmly mention to him/her I see that you are angry but I wont let you hit me. A simple statement like this will show your child that you care and validate his/her feelings, but you are setting healthy limits.

    Validate his/Her Feelings: Validating your childs feelings is crucial for his/her connection with you. This way you are letting your child know that even though you dont approve of his/her conduct, you understand the feeling behind it.

    The following phrases will help you validate your childs emotions while setting boundaries:

    • I know that you were very angry and this is why you hit me. Im here if you want to talk about it.
    • I see how upset you are. Lets talk about this!
    • Lets take a moment to calm down and see how you feel.

    Remember, you are not alone!

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    Offer An Alternative Solution

    If the biting seems to stem from frustration or anger, offer an alternative solution to manage the anger. A stress gel ball may work for this. Tell the child they may squeeze the ball when they are angry, but they are not allowed to bite. This strategy can also be used for both aggression and self-injury.

    Tips For Parents Of Kids With Asd

    How to Stop a Child with Autism from Hitting

    When a child misbehaves, whether its throwing objects, having a tantrum, hurting someone or themselves, they should get some form of punishment. All children need to be disciplined, especially in dangerous situations, such as running into the road. Parents often wonder how to discipline their autistic children. How do you punish an autistic child who may not understand what is happening to them? What about physical punishment, does that work? Heres what parents need to consider when disciplining their autistic child.

    The point of discipline is helping your child learn how to behave appropriately in different situations. It is about helping your child understand how to behave and how not to behave. Discipline strategies need to be positive, not negative. Talking and listening play a significant role in discipline training, which is difficult for some children.

    Discipline helps children:

    • understand what behavior is appropriate and inappropriate,
    • develop skills to get along well with others,
    • learn to understand, manage, and express their feelings.
    • Discipline works best when you have a loving relationship with your child.

    Did You Know?

    Autism and Discipline

    Safety First

    Other reasons for self-harm may include:

    • Painful medical issues such as a headache or toothache causing hitting to disguise the pain,
    • Acting out to avoid a distressing situation,
    • Trying to gain the attention of someone,
    • Getting an object, they want and,
    • Imitating physical behavior, he was taught.

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