One of the hardest autism symptoms in your child to observe is that of self-injurious behavior. What is self-injurious behavior? Well, some kids with autism will bang their head, hit themselves, bite their hands, or otherwise engage in activities that hurt themselves.
Why does an autistic child seriously hurt himself?
There are many theories to explain these autism symptoms in a child.
For some kids, it may block out other stimuli. They may be overwhelmed and over-stimulated from their environment, and they unfortunately need to focus on something internal or external. Causing pain to is a way to switch that focus of attention.
A child may have extreme sensory issues and need a lot of tactile feedback. Head banging and other similar behaviors may be ways of trying to get that tactile feedback, although not very good ones. If this is the case, sensory integration therapy should be undertaken, and the child with autism should be given other ways to get the tactile feedback that they need.
There is a whole “sensory diet” that can be employed in this case to help these autism symptoms in the child.
For some children, hitting their ears could be evidence of a middle ear infection, and a comprehensive ear examination should be mandated to rule out this possibility.
Additionally, it is also possible that self-injurious behavior could have been caused by a certain type of seizures. The child with autism exhibiting these autistic symptoms should get an EEG done to rule out this possibility.
Frustration May Cause These Autism Symptoms in a Child
Finally, we know that poor communication skills are a common symptom of autism in a child. These self-injurious behaviors are often just the result of extreme frustration.
Here, the child with autism has no better way to communicate his or her frustration – it is both a release and a form of communication. In this case, if the child is not verbal, they should be taught alternative ways to communicate, such as using picture cards, sign language or facilitated communication; having the ability to communicate one's feelings and needs will greatly reduce frustration levels.
Also, if possible, any child with autism should be taught ways to handle and try to less their frustration levels, such as through a sensory diet, relaxation exercises, deep pressure and through exercise.
How do you treat self-injurious behavior in a child with autism?
When trying to figure out how to treat these behaviors, it is important to first try to figure out what the source is. Sometimes, there are other medical complaints that are causing pain, and this pain cause the child with autism to act out and exhibit this autism symptom. A careful medical evaluation should be done.
Some drugs, such as Risperdal, have been prescribed to help self-injurious behavior, but not for everyone. Doses should be carefully monitored by a doctor. Detoxification of heavy metals, if this is an issue, can also help. Behavior therapy such as ABA (applied behavior analysis) is a common treatment for these symptoms also.
In time, as you figure out your child's triggers, and find ways to help him function better in his environment, these behaviors should lessen. Self-injurious behavior is a hard autism symptom in your child to deal with, but it can be done.