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Is Biting A Sign Of Autism

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New Research On Children With Asd And Aggression

Autism and Biting: How to Resolve Biting in Children with Autism

Information shared by families participating in the Simons Simplex Collection project helps researchers explore questions about aggression in children on the autism spectrum.

Aggressive behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders often cause a great deal of difficulty for families. Hitting, kicking, biting, throwing objects, and other behaviors common during a temper tantrum or meltdown can greatly increase parent stress.1 To make things worse, a vicious cycle can begin so that behavior problems increase stress and increased stress result in even worse behavior problems.2

Disruptive behaviors also may interfere with interventions meant to help a child, and with a childs ability to succeed at school. They may keep a child barred from a variety of community activities. Furthermore, fear of aggressive incidents may keep a family at home, increasing their sense of isolation and decreasing their quality of life.

However, little work had been done to study aggression in children with ASD. Now, a new study reveals that aggression is extremely common in children on the autism spectrum, but is not associated with the same factors usually linked to aggression in typical children.

Shedding Light On Aggression And Asds To Help Families

This new study provides confirmation that aggression is a major issue for caregivers of children on the autism spectrum, validating the experience of many and laying the groundwork for future research. It underscores the need for interventions to address aggression in children with ASD, and to support families coping with it.

  • Lecavalier, L., Leone, S., & Wiltz, J. . The impact of behaviour problems on caregiver stress in young people with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of intellectual disability research: JIDR, 50, 172-183.
  • Baker, B. L., McIntyre, L. L., Blacher, J., Crnic, K., Edelbrock, C., & Low, C. . Pre-school children with and without developmental delay: Behaviour problems and parenting stress over time. Journal of intellectual disability research: JIDR, 47, 217-230.
  • Campbell, S. B., Spieker, S., Vandergrift, N., Belsky, J., Burchinal, M., & NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. . Predictors and sequelae of trajectories of physical aggression in school-age boys and girls. Development and psychopathology, 22, 133-150.
  • Lahey, B. B., Waldman, I. D., & McBurnett, K. . Annotation: The development of antisocial behavior: An integrative causal model. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines, 40, 669-682.
  • Kanne, S. M., & Mazurek, M. O. . Aggression in children and adolescents with ASD: Prevalence and risk factors. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41, 926-937.
  • Q: Jessica Is 26 Months Old And Has A Diagnosis Of Autism/pdd She Has Started To Respond To Discrete Trial Instruction However She Presents With Constant Mouthing Licking And Biting Her Fingers We Have Tried Numerous Things Chewing Tubes Cold Stimulation Vibration To The Mouth Pressure Sweet Sour Salty Ignoring And So Forth But The Behaviors Are Increasing Parents Report Constant Licking And Gnawing At Furniture Books And Other Household Objects Any Suggestions You Can Give That Might Help Would Be Greatly Appreciated

    My clinical experience has taught me that a child on the autism spectrum usually is mouthing for a different reason than is a child with an oral motor dysfunction related to a motor speech disorder . Therefore the solution is completely different.

    Children with motor disabilities, like apraxia or dysarthria, may need to increase mouthing behavior in order to learn about the oral mechanism. Learning more about the mouth helps these children discover the oral movements they need for phoneme production and feeding skill.

    But children on the autism spectrum often are using mouthing for a different reason. My clinical experience has taught me that these children are not using mouthing to learn about the mouth. They are mouthing to regulate their behavior. Children on the autism spectrum often use mouthing the same way they use hand flapping, finger twisting, rocking, and other forms of sensory self-regulation. These behaviors help them take control of their uncontrolled sensory responses.

    A child who is using mouthing behavior to regulate his sensory system, and who is developing oral habits like the ones you describe, however, needs a program to help him regulate, control, and eventually eliminate his oral behaviors. Adding more mouthing experiences to his routine will not help him do that, as you have discovered.

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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.

    How To Prevent Your Child With Autism From Biting

    No Biting!

    Parenting a special needs child is more rewarding than we can explain, but it also comes with its challenges. If your child with Autism is biting, youre experiencing one of these difficulties right now. Biting can be scary, as it is harmful to your child and those around him or her. At the same time, though, biting is a fairly normal behavior. The American Disabilities Association even considers biting a possible sign of Autism.

    Even though its common for children with Autism to bite, its something that needs to be addressed. Of course, you cannot let your child bite themselves or others. With that said, what can you do to help stop your child with special needs from biting?

    First, its important to understand the reason behind the action. Once weve got a full understanding of why children with Autism bite, well discuss how to stop it.

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    Don’t Overreact To The Behavior

    Whatever the cause of the biting behavior , it is important not to overreact to it. Any attention given the behavior is only likely to increase its occurrence.

    • It is best to say little and simply remove the child from the situation.
    • Give the attention to the person who has been bitten, show sympathy, and treat the bite as needed.
    • It is appropriate to say no, or that biting is not allowed, but try not to show anger or frustration and state the rules only once. Use a firm, serious voice, but try not to yell.

    If the biting is self-injurious, the bite will need to be attended to, but it is best not to fret or show dismay when that occurs. Long explanations about why biting isn’t appropriate probably won’t help, particularly for young children. Simply state it is not allowed and move on. Return attention to them when they are calm and behaving appropriately.

    Preventing Your Child With Special Needs From Biting

    We believe that parenting or working with a special needs child is highly rewarding, but it also comes with its challenges. If your child with special needs is biting, you are experiencing one of these difficulties right now. Biting can be scary, as it is harmful to your child and those around him or her.

    Even though it is common for children with special needs to bite, it is something that needs to be addressed. Of course, you cannot let your child bite themselves or others. With that said, what can you do to help stop your child with special needs from biting?

    When Special Needs Children Bite Others

    Biting others is often referred to as a form of aggression. Aggression can sound like a scary word, but it does not have to be. Of course, aggressive behaviours are something that your child will need guidance with. They are not, however, a sign of who your child is.

    Below are two reasons why your child may be exhibiting aggressive behaviour:


    It is long been known that for example Autism and sensory challenges go hand in hand. Children with Autism often have a difficult time meeting their sensory needs. If your child is having trouble meeting an oral sensory need, they may resort to biting. The frustration that comes from not being able to meet this need can lead to what looks like aggressive behaviour from the outside.


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    What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Should You Use Chew Toys Autism Chew Toys for Chewing & Biting Problems

    Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that can cause major social, communication and behavior challenges. People with ASD may communicate, interact, behave and learn in ways that are different from most other people. Some people with ASD have strong skills in learning, thinking and solving problems others have severe challenges with these skills. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives, but others need less help.

    Premature babies may be more likely to show signs or symptoms of ASD than other babies. Health care providers can sometimes detect ASD in a child at 18 months old or younger. By the time a child is 2 years old, a provider may give an ASD diagnosis. But many children dont get a final diagnosis until theyre much older. This delay means children with ASD may not get the early help they need.

    It’s really important to learn the signs and symptoms of ASD and get help for your child right away if you think he has ASD. Getting early intervention services as soon as possible can help improve your childs development. These services can help children from birth through 3 years old learn important skills. Services include therapy to help a child talk, walk, learn self-help skills and interact with others. Visit the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center to find your states contact information for early intervention services.

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    What Is This Word

    It’s stimming, short for the medical term self-stimulatory behaviours – a real mouthful.

    Stimming might be rocking, head banging, repeatedly feeling textures or squealing. You’ll probably have seen this in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder but not really wanted to ask about it.

    It is a term used widely in the ASD community.

    Frequent Biting And Aggressive Behavior

    If a toddlers biting habit becomes extreme or persists despite interventions, parents should consult their childs pediatrician to rule out underlying conditions such as an expressive speech delay, sensory processing disorder, or autism spectrum disorder.

    If your child has an underlying condition or is just having trouble kicking the biting habit, your pediatrician may refer you to a behavioral specialist who can identify key strategies to help your child find better ways to express and manage his feelings.

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    What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Asd

    Every person with ASD is unique, so the timing and severity of the first signs and symptoms can vary widely. Some children with ASD show signs within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms may not become obvious until 24 months or later. Some children with ASD appear to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then stop gaining new skills and/or start losing skills.

    During infancy , a child may show symptoms that include:

    • Limited or no eye contact
    • No babbling
    • Appearing not to hear
    • Playing with toys in an unusual or limited manner
    • Showing more interest in objects instead of people
    • Starting language skills but then stopping or losing those skills
    • Showing repetitive movements with their fingers, hands, arms or head

    Up to 2 years of age, there may be continuing symptoms from infancy. A child may also:

    • Focus only on certain interests
    • Be unable to have reciprocal social interactions
    • Move in unusual ways, such as tilting their head, flexing their fingers or hands, opening their mouth or sticking out their tongue
    • Have no interest in playing with other children
    • Repeat words or phrases without appearing to understand them
    • Have behavioural issues, including self-injury
    • Have trouble controlling their emotions
    • Like to have things a certain way, such as always eating the same food

    Possible signs of ASD at any age:

    Autism And Aggressive Behavior

    Biting Social Story

    When a child engages in physical aggression, an immediate response is required, especially if the target of the aggression is a person. A lack of preparedness can result in a spontaneous reaction that may exacerbate the aggressive episode. The following techniques can help safely end physically aggressive episodes and deter repeat performances of physically aggressive behavior.

    Common forms of physical aggression include:

    To effectively neutrally redirect such physical behavior, the adult can prevent the child from making contact with her body by moving out of the childs range of motion. When moving away from the child is not possible, the adult may need to protect more vulnerable parts of her body with her own hands, arms or legs or by altering the position of her body relative to the child. After the adult has successfully avoided injury and the child has stopped aggressing, she will then guide him to engage in an appropriate task. It is very important that the adult not react to the child with exaggerated body movements or a change in facial expression.

    More specific behavioral interventions include:

    These techniques provide an adult with the safest manner to avoid injury from hitting behavior without needing to physically intervene.

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    Asking Questions About Autism And Aggression

    Despite its importance in the lives of children with ASD and their families, aggression has rarely been investigated by autism researchers. That is why Drs. Stephen Kanne and Micah Mazurek of the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of Missouri recently set out to explore two vital questions:

    • How often do children with autism spectrum disorders exhibit aggressive behavior?
    • What risk factors are associated with aggressive behavior in children with ASD?

    Thanks to families that participated in the Simons Simplex Collection , providing information about their childrens development and behavior at 13 university-based autism centers across North America, Drs. Kanne and Mazurek had enough information to take an in-depth look at these questions in a way that had not been possible before.

    Many studies have examined risk factors for aggression in children with no disabilities. Factors such as male gender, low IQ, low family income, low parental education, and harsh parenting techniques have all been associated with increased aggression or antisocial behavior in typical children.3,4,5,6 Most studies looking at aggression in people with ASD, on the other hand, have focused on just a few individual cases, not on risk factors for people with ASD as a group.

    How many children with ASD had aggressive behaviors?

    This study therefore provides solid evidence that aggressive behaviors are a major challenge for families of children with ASD.

    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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    How Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosed

    Different health care providers evaluate your child to help diagnose ASD. Providers include:

    • Developmental pediatrician. This is a pediatrician who has special training in child development and taking care of children with special needs.
    • Child neurologist. This is a doctor who treats the brain, spine and nerves in children.
    • Child psychiatrist or child psychologist. These are mental health professionals who have special training to take care of children with emotional or mental health problems.
    • Occupational therapist. This is a specialist who helps people learn to carry out everyday activities.
    • For children, this may be things like brushing teeth, getting dressed, putting on shoes or learning to use a pencil.
    • Physical therapist. This is a specialist who creates exercise programs to help build strength and help with movement.
    • Speech therapist. This is a specialist who helps people with speech and language problems. For children this may include helping with saying sounds or words correctly and completely. It can also include in helping children be understood and also understand others.

    To evaluate your child, the providers may:

    Your childs providers may use medical tests to see if your child has a medical condition with signs or symptoms that are similar to ASD. These include:

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