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How To Stop Head Banging Autism

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Why These Behaviours Happen

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

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.

Help With Head Banging

In the past, helmets for head banging were hard plastic and were less effective for the protection of those who experience this issue chronically. Newer special needs helmets for head banging are softer and more comfortable for the wearer and, along with their greater effectiveness, are able to provide a better quality of care.

Different Strategies For Different Causes Of Self

If the self-injurious behavior is driven by attention, then tactical ignoring of the self-injurious behavior may extinguish the behavior. This would have to be accompanied by giving the child attention for appropriate behavior when it occurs, known as positive reinforcement. Of course, if the child is seriously hurting himself or herself, this may not be an option. Reinforcing other behavior that makes the self-injurious behavior impossible to perform may also be recommended .

If the self-injurious behavior is caused by frustration, it may be that teaching the child a way to cope or communicate will prevent the self-injury. Simply giving the child constructive things to do may prevent boredom, which could lead to self-injury.

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Neurological Correlates Of Pain And Sensory Processing In Asd

Neuroimaging techniques provide a non-invasive way to study regions of the brain that are involved in the perception and evaluation of chronic pain. These techniques include positron emission tomography , electroencephalogram , motionless electromagnetic generator , single photon emission computed tomography , and magnetic resonance imaging and have been used to study individuals with a variety of chronic pain-related conditions such as arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, and recurrent migraines . Evidence shows altered functional and structural changes in brain regions or networks in response to chronic pain and that sensory, motor, cognitive, motivational, and emotional processes can be impacted.

Failla and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure the neural response to sustained thermal pain stimuli in a group of 15 high functioning adults with ASD and 16 non-ASD controls who were matched for age, gender, and IQ. Individuals had a heat stimulator applied to their lateral calf while they were in an MRI scanner. The temperature of the stimulator was raised gradually until they indicated feeling heat pain. fMRI results indicated that both groups showed a similar initial neural response to the heat induced pain however, adults with ASD showed a reduced response to prolonged painful stimulation compared to controls, a finding the investigators speculated may reflect differences in strategies for coping with pain.

How Long Does Head Banging Last

How To Stop Your Autistic Child From Banging Their Head ...

These rhythmic motor activities are part of normal behavior in healthy infants and young children . This behavior is abnormal, though, if it persists beyond the early years. Normal head banging usually goes away by age four. Any child who is still head banging beyond three years of age deserves further evaluation to be sure it is a normal habit.

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Head Banging And Autism

Children who bang their heads do not necessarily have autism, but they could. Think about what time of day they usually do it. Unlike head banging that can sometimes be associated with autism and other neurological disorders, children with simple head banging typically do it only at night.

On the other hand, when head banging or another rhythmic movement is a sign of autism, you can usually expect that the child will often do it during the day, too.

Neurobiological Models Of Pain And Sib

Over the years, different perspectives have been offered regarding the role of pain in SIB. Pain is a complex biological phenomenon that has sensory and emotional components. Pain acts as a warning system to protect us from further harm and allow injured tissues to heal. It also evokes behavior to bring about relief or comfort. Pain can differ in intensity , onset , and duration . Acute pain usually occurs suddenly and can be traced to an injury or disease, whereas chronic pain persists over longer periods of time even after an injury has healed or an illness has ended and can become a problem onto itself.

Specialized sensory receptors in the skin and internal organs carry signals along small nerve fiber pathways to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, where they come into contact with interneurons that play an inhibitory or excitatory role. If inhibitory interneurons are blocked, secondary projection neurons transmit the nociceptive signal to areas in the brainstem and brain where they are interpreted as pain . Different brain regions that are involved in cognition, emotion, sensation, and pain act together to support the experience and modulation of pain .

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How Can I Protect My Child From Self

It can be terrifying to witness when a toddler hits himself or herself in the head, but protective measures can be taken to remedy autism and self-harm. Some children respond well to resistance exercises including chin-ups or lifting light weights. Tracking when your child headbangs and to what extent will help determine what level of pain he/she might experience after the episode.

Your pediatrician should be your primary source of information on how to best help a headbanging child. He/she will be able to assess the likelihood of self-harm, help you identify why your child headbangs, and offer solutions and alternatives.

The Cleveland Clinic recommends consulting a doctor immediately if your child hurts him/herself, leaves bumps or bruises, or if you think that the child is having seizures.

If you are unsure if your child is headbanging due to a diagnosis of autism or if it is developmentally normal at this point, partner with your pediatrician. He/she can refer you to other professionals and treatments that can help. This includes occupational therapy for autism, behavior interventionists, or autism support groups for parents.

What To Do If Your Child Hits You

Autism Behaviours: Droning & Head-Banging (3/16)

Neutral redirection is effective in how to stop an autistic child from hitting. This is an Applied Behavior Analysis technique consisting of replacing a childs aggressive, potentially dangerous behaviors with functional, appropriate behaviors.

With some guidance and gentleness, neutral redirection allows parents to effectively teach their children socially appropriate and safe behaviors, skills that will help them interact with peers, share experiences, and enjoy a higher quality of life. This process begins at treatment centers like Therapeutic Pathways, but can be followed at home.

As a parent or caregiver, heres how you can remediate your childs aggressiveness through neutral redirection:

  • Remain calm. Remember that your childs behavior may be kindled if you give in to their aggression.
  • Prevent your child from making contact with you by moving out of the way.
  • If this is not possible, you may need to protect vulnerable parts of your body.
  • During the process, refrain from speaking to your child , making eye contact with them, or reacting physically .
  • Calmly redirect your child to a different method of communication. For example, if your child usually hits you to get your attention, you can instead instruct them to tap you on the arm and say excuse me.
  • Only give your child direct acknowledgment when they engage in the appropriate behavior. Failing to do so could lead your child to associate aggressiveness with attention and getting what they want.

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Myths About Head Banging

Parents of children with autism or developmental disorders are often given well intended but poor advice regarding several common problems that stem from these conditions. When considering the use of helmets for head banging, some parents are assured that this pattern of behavior will go away if ignored, and that headgear is unnecessary. The information that if head butting or banging is ignored it will stop on its own is not only incorrect, but a dangerous myth. There are many theories regarding this behavior, but one thing is clear: the problem should be addressed seriously, and helmets for head banging fulfill a necessary function in protecting the child or adult with this issue.

What Does Common Baby Head Banging Look Like

As odd as it may seem, head banging among babies and toddlers is actually a normal behavior. Some children do this around nap time or bedtime, almost as a self-soothing technique.

But despite being a common habit, its no less upsetting or frightening for you. Its only natural to think the worst. Can head banging cause brain damage? Is it a sign of something serious? Can it cause other injury? Is my toddler angry?

Head banging can take different forms. Some children only bang their head when lying face down in the bed, and then repeatedly bang their head against the pillow or mattress.

Other times, though, babies or toddlers head bang while in an upright position. In this case, they might bang their head against a wall, crib railing, or the back of a chair.

Some children rock their body while banging their head, and others moan or make other noise.

The important thing to know, though, is that head banging isnt usually anything to worry about, especially if it only occurs during nap time or bedtime.

The habit can start around the ages of 6 to 9 months, with many children getting over the habit by ages 3 to 5. Head banging episodes are relatively brief, lasting up to 15 minutes, although they might seem longer if youre worried.

Understanding why a child bangs their head can help calm your nerves. Here are a couple possible explanations, with the first being much, much more common.

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Pain Experience And Expression In Individuals With Asd

At one time, individuals with ASD who engaged in SIB were viewed as having a high tolerance for pain, in part due to their hypo-responsiveness or lack of reaction to a range of positive and negative stimuli, as well as the fact that pain should ordinarily act as a deterrent for self-harm . An unfortunate outcome of this belief is that pain assessments may not be carried out routinely for individuals with ID, including those with ASD . Allely conducted a systematic review of research on pain responses in individuals with ASD, finding several case reports that provided some support for pain insensitivity. However, evidence from experimental studies challenged this view and instead suggested that individuals with ASD experience pain but may express it in a different or unusual manner. Moore examined studies that provided information about the experience of pain and pain expression in individuals with ASD. A review of studies based on clinical observations and experimental investigations using standardized pain stimuli failed to yield evidence of hypo-sensitivity to pain or increased pain thresholds in individuals with ASD, but did raise the possibility that they may display different social communicative behaviors during pain episodes. For instance, children with ASD may express negative emotional reactions such as screaming or noncompliance when experiencing pain which could mislead caregivers into looking for non-pain related explanations for their behavior .

Make Directions Clear Short And Concrete

Autism Head Banging Solution

For example, if your child is throwing food at the table say, eat your food rather than Be good at the table, Dont throw your food or Would you stop with that! You are always throwing your food. For children with difficulty understanding language, showing them a picture or a visual demonstration of the behavior you want to see, can be helpful.

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Show Them That You Value Them

Giving your child your full attention also shows them that you care and that they are valued. Everyone wants to feel valued. Our children should always feel that we value them.

Some ways that you can give your child attention and show that they are valued include the following:

  • Praise your child.
  • Give physical affections, such as hugs.
  • Show interest in their activities.
  • Get on their level when talking.
  • Make eye contact and smile while interacting.
  • Give positive feedback in your daily interactions.
  • Provide them with support in accomplishing daily activities .
  • Build up your child with positive messages.
  • Reassure your child when they are fearful.
  • Support your child when they are upset.
  • Make time to spend with your child one on one daily.
  • Respond to your child every time they talk to you .
  • Ask your child about their day with meaningful, open-ended questions.

According to the article, Positive Attention and Your Child,

From birth, children need experiences and relationships that show them theyre valued, capable human beings who bring pleasure to others. Positive attention, reactions and responses from key grown-ups help children build a picture of how valued they are.

Children must be told and shown that they are valued. What we say and how we act toward our children should be done in a way that makes them consistently feel valued. This will help build a relationship where listening and respect go both ways.

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How Is Head Banging Treated

Most children will outgrow the habit on their own. You can speed up this process by reacting to it in a matter-of-fact way. Pretend not to notice. And if it is part of a tantrum, do not give her whatever she threw the tantrum to get. When you notice her head banging, you might be able to get her to stop for the moment by distracting her or engaging her in a different activity. By decreasing the amount of time she spends in this habitual activity, she will outgrow it more quickly.

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Why Do Kids Engage In Head Banging Behavior Or Other Self

There are lots of theories about the origins of SIB , but most research shows that SIB is a learned behavior maintained by its consequences.

From the perspective of applied behavior analysis, there are four functions of self-injurious behavior:

  • social positive reinforcement
  • social negative reinforcement
  • automatic positive reinforcement
  • automatic negative reinforcement

As parents, we don´t usually use these academic/behavioral labels when we talk about the causes for head banging. The most common reasons for head banging that I will address below are:

  • Sensory processing issues
  • Communication Issues / Frustration
  • Pain

It soon becomes obvious that there cannot be a one-size fits all solution. Understanding the function of this behavior is key to ensuring that the strategies you put in place are going to be successful.

Three: Implement Strategies For Managing Biting Based On Cause

Autistic Children, Head Banging and other Self Harming Behavior

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
  • 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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Can Headbanging Cause Brain Damage

For parents of children with autism, brain damage is a common concern if a child starts headbanging. Children under three years old will rarely cause long-term damage by headbanging. Their heads are designed to handle impact from learning to walk, and headbanging will rarely cause more trauma than a slip and fall accident at this age. However, as children get older, they are at a higher risk of causing lasting damage.

Children who are strong enough to cause injury should receive a functional behavioral intervention to come up with a plan to replace headbanging with healthy coping and communication strategies.

behaviors can be physically dangerous for the individual who is head-banging and self-injurious behavior is very concerning for their caregivers who want to keep these children safe. In order to implement a behavioral treatment plan for self-injurious behaviors, a functional behavioral assessment should be performed to help determine the environmental and/or internal factors that are maintaining the behaviors. This information is then used to inform behavioral interventions in order to preempt the causes or replace the unwanted behaviors with ones that are more acceptable, writes Minshawi.

Topography And Impact Of Sib For Individuals With Asd And Id

SIB is frequent in children and adults with ASD and can be understood as existing on a continuum in relation to frequency and intensity, ranging from mild and infrequent to severe and chronic. The latter types of SIB involve forceful intense contact with specific body sites which has the potential to cause lasting physical damage . Repetitive or stereotyped motor movements are a key component of SIB . The physical impact of SIB has been demonstrated to be of significant concern for the health and well-being of the individual. For instance, Newell and colleagues conducted a biomechanical analysis of head hitting in adults with severe ID, and determined that the physical impact of their SIB was equivalent to the effects of boxing punches.

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Treatment For Aggressive Children With Autism

Knowing how to stop an autistic child from hitting is key. Aggressive behavior can hinder a childs progress at school, at home, and in social interactions. If your child has an autism diagnosis and is engaging in aggressive behaviors, seek treatment options as soon as possible.

The earlier the intervention , the greater your childs chances of developing alongside their peers and becoming independent.

At Therapeutic Pathways, our Board-Certified Behavior Analysts put together an ABA treatment plan for each child engaging in aggressive behaviors. We work diligently to remediate harmful behaviors and encourage children to engage in safer, more appropriate behaviors.

For more information and to learn more about our ABA methods, contact Therapeutic Pathways at 422-3280 to see if our Behavior Center program is right for your child.

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