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Updated by Autism Parenting Magazine on Nov 24, 2017
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Autism, Head Banging and other Self Harming Behavior

For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), head banging is a common way to self-soothe and communicate needs. Both neurotypical and autistic babies and toddlers seek to recreate the rhythm that stimulated their vestibular system while in utero. Other rhythmic habits that fuel a child’s kinesthetic drive include head rolling, body rocking, biting, and thumb sucking.

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Autism, Head Banging and other Self Harming Behavior - Autism Parenting Magazine

For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), head banging is a common way to self-soothe and communicate needs. Both neurotypical and autistic babies and toddlers seek to recreate the rhythm that stimulated their vestibular system while in utero. Other rhythmic habits that fuel a child’s kinesthetic drive include head rolling, body rocking, biting, and thumb sucking. According to Dr. Harvey Karp MD, rhythmic habits trigger the calming reflex in infants and toddlers. Many babies begin head banging around six months of age, but neurotypical children usually will not continue the behavior after the age of three.

Q&A Section- What should I know as a relative of an autistic child? - Autism Parenting Magazine

I am an extended family member of parents of an autistic child. We both live in the same metro area, but sadly we don’t relate. I have made numerous offers to have them visit my home, have had them with us on a couple weekend getaways, as well as traveling to their child’s milestone events so he would have kids (my kids) to help celebrate. I have offered to help them get him in the ocean, mountains, sleepovers, etc. I have also made, what in retrospect are typical blunders, on our first encounter when observing violent behavior toward my own children and their other child. We were never prepared, and were just going on our experience with friend’s kids who were also on the spectrum.

How did I know my daughter was autistic? - Autism Parenting Magazine

To be completely honest, I thought I was well educated on special education. I mean after all, I have worked with several different students with a wide range of learning disabilities, physical disabilities, etc. However, reality didn’t set in until I had my own child. Let’s face it – there is a huge difference between reading something in a book and living it. My first child was a beautiful, healthy, bright eyed little girl. As an educator, I had such high hopes. I hung black and white pictures next to her changing table and read to her every day. Then one day, my experience in education told me something was wrong with my beautiful baby. Since her birth I struggled to get her to eat. She was very thin and the insurance company even sent someone to weigh her weekly. All she did was sleep and then as she got older, it was impossible to get her to go to sleep.

Issue 18 - Potty Training - Autism Parenting Magazine

I’m not sure if Screen-Free Week is an American thing to get children away from watching TV and playing video games or if it is worldwide, but my children have been challenged by their school to get creative to keep all their screens (iPad, tablet, computer, and television) off.  One day in an attempt to keep them busy, I attempted to teach them how to play charades.  In the beginning it was fun trying to figure out what someone was gesturing in hopes that we would guess the correct word without them using their voice but it quickly became challenging and frustrating trying to explain just one word without any verbal cues.  After I calmed everyone down, I couldn’t help but think of my interview with Margret Eriksdottir (cofounder of the Golden Hat Foundation) and her non-speaking son Keli that told me how Keli had no way to verbally communicate for over ten years until she went on a journey to make a documentary and on it learned of a sensory based approach to communicating called Rapid Prompting Method. Margret was brave enough to publicly admit that she had given up trying to communicate with Keli and trying to find a way for him to communicate because the experts told her that his cognitive ability would never pass that of two year old. There are countless parents that have shared this frustration but what about the person that can’t communicate? I want you to seriously consider how frustrated you would be if you couldn’t communicate your basic needs, your preferences, your problems, your interests? Honestly, charades helped put a small piece of the frustration of people not understanding me into context.

Advice from a Mom: Ways to Help Your Child with ASD - Autism Parenting Magazine

Taking care of a child with autism can be demanding physically, emotionally, and psychologically, but we as parents need to realize that our duty to our children is to nurture and protect them from external and internal hazardous stimuli.  The more time we take to care for and understand our children, the less demanding our roles become.  I have a 20-year-old son who was diagnosed with autism at an early age, and I raised him as a single parent after my marital breakdown.  At the age of 15, he started self-harming, and due to the impact of constantly hitting his ear, it became cauliflower-shaped.  It was disheartening to watch him hit himself; every blow he gave himself was a personal torment to me.  He was in school and I was working at the time, so I had little time to investigate the problem.  It got so serious that he was excluded from school and was almost sanctioned for self-harming.  This was rather alarming, as God would have it. On top of this, I was let go from my job of almost 12 years during the time I needed it most.  It became an opportunity, however, to revisit what we were doing in his life.  Here are some of the changes I made along with some guidelines:

Q and A: Head Banging Solution - Autism Parenting Magazine

Head banging can be a surprisingly common behavior in many children. Up to 20% of babies and toddlers bang their heads purposefully, with boys being up to three times more likely to engage in this behavior than girls. Head banging often starts at around 6 months, peaking anywhere between 18-24 months of age. This habit can stretch out for months (even years), 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.

Top Advice for Surviving Plane Travel With Your Autistic Child - Autism Parenting Magazine

It was not going to be an easy journey seated next to a tired, overstimulated child who needed constant reassurance and who repetitively pushed buttons, opened and closed tray tables, was anxious about flying, and didn’t like crowds.

Top 10 Things My Child with Autism Needs in His Life - Autism Parenting Magazine

I am asked time and time again what items we use for our son with autism to make his life and our lives easier.  So, here is a breakdown of the things that he (or we) couldn’t live without.

He Will Be Ready When the Time Is Right for Him - Autism Parenting Magazine

It’s 7:30 am and we are waiting in the car for our carpool friends to meet us.  My happy boy is in the back giggling about something—I will never know what.  An idea has been brewing in my mind for a bit, and I decide today is the day to try it.  I tell my boy that he is big now (four inches taller than me at 15), and he needs to start getting out of the car by himself, just like his carpool friend does. I tell him step by step.  “You need to take off your seatbelt (he mastered this just recently), put on your backpack, open the door and close it, and open [the] other door and get in.”  I confirm with him “OK?” He responds “OK.” His response gives me no confidence this will happen. “Yes” and “OK” are his default responses.  Our carpool friends arrive.  My boy gets out of the car independently and gets into the other car. I even get a wave goodbye.  I send up prayers of thanks.  He did it! All by himself! The other mom is applauding for him and nodding her head at me. She gets it.

Erasing the Prejudice - Are People on the Spectrum Really More Violent? - Autism Parenting Magazine

As the mother of a Spectrum Teen, I am becoming concerned about prejudice against persons with Autism Spectrum/Autism Spectrum Disorder (AS/ASD) because of three shootings that occurred in the U.S. where the shooters were identified as having AS.