Sunday, May 19, 2024

Why Do Autistic People Hit Their Heads

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Summary Of Causes Of Head Banging Self

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

Pain is the cause of head banging, self-injury and aggression. Medical assessment can identify why children are in pain. The most common medical causes of pain in autism are sensory issues and digestive issues. Biomedical treatment addresses sensory and digestive pain using treatments like dietary intervention and methyl B12 injections. Biomedical intervention improves quality of life by treating medical issues in autism. These untreated conditions cause pain which certainly reduces quality of life while also negatively impacting development.

Impact Of Stimming On Your Health

Many parents ask how they can help their children to stop stimming behaviors in an effort to help them blend in with their peers. But stimming is very normal, if not widely accepted socially. Instead of asking how to stop the behavior, try asking why your child is engaging in stimming.

Common reasons for people to stim include:

Overstimulation. Stimming helps block out too much sensory input from overstimulation. An example of stemming action is making a âbrrrâ sound with your lips in a place that is too loud.

Understimulation. If a place doesnât have enough sensory input â things to hear or look at â or if you are bored, stimming provides additional sensory input. An example of this type of stimming is clucking in a room that is too quiet.â

Pain reduction. If you fall or bump your arm, your reaction might be to hurt yourself in some other way to take away from that pain. Many children bang their head or body to reduce other sensations of pain. Even though it seems counterproductive, medical professionals believe that this type of stimming may release beta-endorphins that decrease the sensation of pain or provide a sensation of pleasure.

âManagement of emotions. If you suddenly feel happy or sad, it may trigger you to stim. You may flap your hands when youâre happy or begin to bite your nails when youâre upset.

About Aggressive Behaviour And Self

Autistic children sometimes express their emotions through aggressive behaviour towards others. Sometimes their aggressive behaviour can be directed towards themselves. This is called self-injurious behaviour. They might hit, kick, throw objects or hurt themselves for example, by head-banging.

Autistic children might behave aggressively or hurt themselves because they:

  • have trouble understanding whats happening around them for example, what other people are saying or communicating non-verbally
  • have difficulty communicating their own wants and needs
  • are very anxious and stressed
  • have sensory sensitivities, like an oversensitivity to noise or a need for stimulation
  • want to escape from stressful situations or activities.

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When To Talk With Your Doctor

If youve observed a few other troubling signs along with your toddlers self-injurious behavior, its smart to give your doctor a call.

They may meet with you and your child to do a physical exam and ask you a bunch of questions about your childs growth and development. They could determine that everything is fine, or they may refer you to a specialist who can evaluate your child more thoroughly.

But even if you havent noticed other symptoms, its still OK to call your childs doctor and get advice. They see these behaviors all the time and have a good handle on whats just a phase and what might need to be checked out.

If youre not sure where to start or what strategy might work best for your child, ask your doctor for help.

What Can We Do Help Control Sensory Overload

Head banging and autism: Why kids bang their heads and how ...

To increase your child’s tolerance to sensations try to take a whole-body approach to improving cell, body and brain health. Here are a few tips to begin with..

  • Eat a multi colored plant based diet full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
  • Magnesium deficiency can be at the root of hypersensitivity. Blood tests may help to rule this out.
  • Supply your brain with plenty of good fats for proper cell to cell communications
  • Work with a sensory integration-trained occupational therapist
  • Find out what foods your child is allergic too. Typically all grains, corn and soy need to be eliminated
  • The most important treatment is diet. It is hard but it is a foundational treatment and is usually the cause of much of the pain your child is experiencing. Changing their diet will diminish the amount of pain they are in and begin a path of healing. Please contact me if you would like to begin this journey together.

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    Why Do Autistic Kids Slap Or Hit Their Own Heads

    This behavior may be the one that terrifies parents the most. They are often worried about the child giving him or herself a concussion or brain damage. Repeated raps to the side of the head and face can also detach retinas, making the self-abuser blind. When it occurs in public, people shrink away because they dont understand what is happening.

    What is happening is that the child cant verbalize that he or she doesnt like what is going on around them and that he/she cant control the situation so they self-abuse. They can control the blows to their heads because its their own head and their own hand. Its their way of letting us know they are doing something they can control.

    When it comes to banging their heads against walls or the back of the couch, they arent receiving the amount of physical stimulation they want. That brings us to the second reason they are using hands, walls, and furniture to self stimulate, but because they dont feel it as much as an observer thinks they should, they continue until they get the right sensation that soothes them. When the body feels pain, it pumps out endorphins to treat the pain, which are like a narcotic. It feels good after awhile and it comforts them at the same time.

    More Terrifying Scenarios:

    When It Could Be Cause For Concern

    While this is fairly typical behavior that your child will likely grow out of , there are a few signs that something else could be going on and that you might need a professionals assistance.

    You may need to seek outside help if:

    • Youve tried to stop the behavior with the usual strategies and nothing has changed or its gotten worse.
    • Your child is injuring themselves .
    • Your child has delayed speech or seems unable to hear you clearly.
    • Your child is showing signs of physical illness, like fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, or irritability.
    • Your child also has symptoms of a developmental condition, like autism spectrum disorder or sensory processing disorder.

    Read Also: Where To Get Tested For Autism

    Common Causes Of Self

    People on the autism spectrum process information, emotions, and sensory input differently from neurotypical individuals. While the experience of every autistic person is slightly different, some characteristics of autism that increase the risk of self-injury include:

    Sensory overload

    Autism can make a person highly sensitive to sensory input. They may feel overwhelmed by loud noises, find certain textures intolerable, or be unable to concentrate in certain environments. A small change in an autistic persons sensory environment can feel like torture. Some autistic people engage in self-injury out of frustration when sensory stimuli become overwhelming. Others self-injure as a physical counterweight to painful sensory input.

    Lack of control

    Both autistic and neurotypical children may self-harm in frustration when they have little control over their environments. For instance, a child forced to play with the toys their parents choose instead of the toys they desire might bang their head. Outdated notions about how to support children with autism sometimes advocate restraint or punishment. This may trigger self-harm in some kids.


    Parents and bystanders may inadvertently reinforce SIB by giving the child more attention while trying to stop the behavior. They might also reward a child immediately after they stop self-injuring. This tactic can backfire and reinforce the action itself rather than the act of stopping.


    Chemical changes

    Environmental changes

    Why Does My Child Bang Their Head

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

    Headbanging is a normal developmental behavior in children from the age of 6 months up to the age of 3. However, if headbanging continues beyond this age I would look into WHY your child continues to do this repetitive behavior. In the world of biological medicine, headbanging and body rocking are symptoms of deeper rooted issue. Children on the spectrum have sensory processing impairments. This is a result of the brain not being able to adequately deal with the onslaught of noise, light, and other environmental stimuli. This sensory overload is a result of the neurons in the child’s brain not being able to adequately do their job due to imbalances in neurotransmitters, inadequate glutathione levels, inefficient mitochondria, food allergies and a host of other gastrointestinal and immune dysfunctions.Constipation or diarrhea disrupts the production of serotonin which then negatively impacts the balance of dopamine. Dopamine is one of the main brain chemicals that helps to properly process sensory information.

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    Understanding Autism And Head Banging

    Children with autism may indulge in behavior that is self-harming such as head banging. They might hit or slam their heads against walls, floor, furniture or other hard surfaces.

    This could be a part of the stimming behavior but can lead to grievous injuries if not cared for. The children may also be trying to express or communicate something or just performing a rhythmic motion.

    Gut Flora And Sensory Integration:

    Our intestines are home to hundreds of trillions of microbes. This ecosystem is called the microbiome and is made up of yeasts, bacteria and viruses. The Human Microbiome Project funded by the National Institutes of Health, has shown that the gut flora, the microbiome, governs everything from brain function, development, immunity, autoimmunity, detoxification and inflammation. The reality is that while we have always thought the brain was in charge, it is whoever is in charge in the gut that governs the bodys biochemistry and physiology. In autism, there are alterations in the microbiome that cause digestive problems in addition to a myriad of changes in cell function. In the autistic gut, overgrowth of yeast and clostridia causes autistic behaviours.

    This is why dietary intervention is so important and so helpful for children with autism. Yeast and clostridia feed on complex carbohydrates and flourish when these types of foods are high in the diet. Removal of complex carbohydrates begins to restore balance in the gut within 3 days! Changing the microbiome, or ecosystem in the gut, can take months to years but research on the gut-brain axis is clear feed the good flora and improve brain function. Probiotics are good bacteria or yeasts and support microbiome repair in combination with dietary intervention that removes grains and dairy.

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    At What Age Does Self

    Self-harming behaviors can occur at any age. Babies and toddlers may bang their head against the wall or hit their heads when frustrated. As communication skills improve, these behaviors are usually outgrown. Autistic children often struggle to communicate, and thats one of the reasons these behaviors may persist. Some self-harming behaviors, such as head banging, can coincide with symptoms of autism. In autistic children, it is viewed as a need for release. It can also be a repetitive action, which is another sign of autism.

    In a large study of autistic adults reporting NSSI behaviors, the average age that they began harming themselves was 15 years old. Another comprehensive study found that over 50% of autistic children between the ages of 2 and 7 reported SIB, while close to 40% of adolescents in the study engaged in these behaviors.

    These studies show that self-harming behaviors are common over a range of ages in children with differing levels of autism severity.

    From Toddler Tantrum To Sib

    Are headbanging toddlers at risk for autism or other ...

    A very mild form of self-injury is common to typically-developing children: the toddler tantrum. Think of the two-year-old who flings himself to the ground and pounds his fists, or who bangs his head against his crib. But this is often more theater than self-injury. Toddlers usually stop short of actually hurting themselves. And they grow out of this behavior as they learn the language and social skills to negotiate the world in productive ways.

    For decades, medical experts struggled to understand exactly why self-injury persisted, and became chronic and severe, in some people with developmental disorders. Some psychiatrists associated it with “brain damage” related to intellectual disability, and only in the latter 20th Century did they begin treating it as a separate behavioral disorder.20

    Many behavior experts believe self-injury is learned, molded by the way people respond to it. Behaviors are triggered by an event and then strengthened or weakened reinforced, in the behavioral lingo by other people’s reactions.

    Lets say you tried a tasty new recipe and your family praised you. Their praise would reinforce your desire to cook that dish again. After dinner, you tell your son to clean the dishes. He complains, so you do the chore yourself. The next time you ask him to help, he complains again. Why? Hes learned that complaining helps him escape dish duty: youve inadvertently reinforced an undesirable behavior.

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    What Did We Already Know

    ASD is a developmental disorder that affects how a child behaves, communicates, and interacts with other people. In addition to the main symptoms of ASD, children with ASD may also behave in ways that lead to self-injury. Common types of self-injurious behaviors are head banging, hair pulling, arm biting, eye poking, and skin scratching. Previous studies have looked at how common self-injurious behaviors are among children with developmental disabilities, but information specific to children with ASD from large studies is lacking.

    Managing Crises Using The Scared Method

    I got this acronym and strategy from Deborah Lipsky, whos an autistic first responder. Her book is called Managing Meltdowns. I highly recommend it for anyone who is working with people who have behavioral crises of various sorts. She describes what meltdowns are like from the inside, and gives a very easy-to-read and clear explanation of what to do.

    The S.C.A.R.E.D. method is to do the opposite of what you feel like doing. Most peoples impulses, including my own, are to get upset, to lecture or to yell, to be embarrassed, and to try to control the situation. When I see someone who is upset, who is at risk of hurting others, or at risk of hurting themselves someone getting themselves in trouble or getting me in trouble, my own anxiety levels increase, and I get worked up myself. This isnt helpful. Its really important to take care of yourself, so that when this situation comes up, you can go to your calm place. If you have those impulses, like I do, try to control them. Keep the lid on them.

    -CALM: Simple instructions, not lectures. This is not the time to talk about feelings. Keep it to simple words such as Jane, stop. or Jane, here.


    -ROUTINE: If you know what that persons safe routines are in general, try getting them into one of their safe routine activities or patterns to work through it.

    -EMPATHY: Theyre not the enemy your approach should be trauma-informed: What happened to you, not Whats wrong with you.

    Sample Meltdown Plan

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    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.

    Addressing Injury & Self

    Autistic Person Reacts To Autism ASMR

    Self-harming behaviors are often evident by physical evidence, such as bruising, bite marks, cuts and scratches, wounds that will not heal, and hair loss.

    Parents of autistic children frequently witness the self-harming behaviors firsthand, which can be alarming. These behaviors go beyond typical hand flapping and repetitive behaviors that are consistent with autism. They are injurious and come with the potential for serious long-term consequences.

    Parents cant effectively curb the self-harming behaviors until they identify the causes. For example, self-harming behaviors in autistic children can be the result of a lack of stimulation. By keeping these children busy, they may see a decrease in SIB.

    In other autistic children, self-harming behaviors may relate to an inability to communicate effectively and subsequent frustration. In applied behavior analysis therapy and speech therapy, the child can learn to communicate their needs more effectively. As they improve with verbal and nonverbal communication, they feel less frustration. This translates to less self-harming behavior.

    If self-harm is used as a way of escaping things that make the child uncomfortable or as a method of social communication, this can be addressed in therapy. For example, if a child does not want to do a particular thing, they may use self-harming behavior to be removed from the situation. This removal reinforces the idea that the SIB works as a method to get what they want.

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    To Regain Control To Shift Attention

    People sometimes harm themselves because by doing so, they are able to gain a subjective sense of control over chaotic internal emotions and thoughts. Seizing this control involves shifting the focus of their attention away from something more troubling towards something less troubling. Cutting or burning one’s self causes physical pain which is a very compelling and strong sensation.

    Self-injurers sometimes use this pain sensation to override painful background chatter that fills their minds. For example, they may have been traumatized by a rape experience such that they have PTSD symptoms and constantly be replaying that rape in their minds.

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