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Updated by Autism Parenting Magazine on Dec 08, 2017
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Q and A: Head Banging Solution

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.

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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.

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Touch is the first sensation that starts evolving in the womb at five weeks. The early development of the touch (tactile) system provides an essential foundation for emerging social and communicative behaviors (Cascio, 2010).

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Low functioning autism falls on the more severe end of the autism spectrum. Children diagnosed with this form of autism need more support to complete daily tasks as they struggle to communicate and manage their behaviors. Symptoms are typically identifiable in infancy or early childhood, as those diagnosed will not meet neurodevelopmental benchmarks such as speaking their first words, learning to self-soothe, or forming bonds with family members and other children.

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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.

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.

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