Those Jugglers – Always Hitting Themselves – Self-Injury How to Stop It
I remember the beginning of the self-injury behaviors. It started with her banging her head on the wall. The first time it scared the heck out of me. It looked painful and it had to be dangerous. I remember thinking that she was going to break her brain. However, self-injury isn’t uncommon with our kiddos. There are lots of theories as to why the do it, but the fact is we have to figure out a way to help them not do it.
I’m Frustrated Because Not One is Listening to Me
In our case, our daughter was frustrated because she was not able to communicate with us in a way that we could understand. The more frustrated she got, the more she would bang her head. The therapists would tell us that some of the kids they knew did it to release some of the tension they had built up because no one was listening to them. The lead therapist even said some research pointed towards this behavior being a result of a biochemical need to relieve some of the pain our daughter had by releasing endorphins. (Geez! Really?!)
Other therapists would caution us that she was doing it in order to get attention. Whether she did it because she was frustrated, wanted attention, or had to release some type of tension – we couldn’t have the kiddo banging her head on the walls and the floor.
While some professionals say that ignoring the our daughter’s self-injurious behavior is acceptable, yeah … no. Yet others “professionals” told us to medicate her. Thankfully we had a great ABA therapy team the focused on positive reinforcement using a methodology called Errorless – and well – she stopped banging her head. However, not everyone is that lucky. So there are some protective helmets that you can get for your kiddos until you can figure out how to help.
My biggest take away from all of the head banging was that we had to try to really understand what was going on with our kiddo. Communication is going to continue to be an increasingly important skill for your family. Remember, you communicate by more than just words. What are they doing? How are they acting? What happened earlier in the day? You get to essentially become a private detective when you have a child with autism. Might as well make it fun!