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09 | Jan | 2020

Support For Autistic Children Dealing With Headbanging & Self Injury

When Would a Child be Susceptible to Headbanging?

Children with autistic spectrum disorders may use headbanging as a way to self soothe or to communicate their needs. It can often be used to express pain or overwhelming feelings as a way to calm themselves with the rhythmic habit. It's not just headbanging at play but also other repetitive habits such as head rolling, body rocking, biting, and thumb sucking to soothe and calm the mind.

What Triggers Headbanging?

When a child is in pain.

Headbanging may be used to manage the feeling as a way to comfort themselves or to communicate that they are in pain. Checking a child regularly for cuts, bruises and acknowledging where the pain is coming from followed by creating a new repetitive motion or phrase may prompt a child to change the old habit to the new one.

When a child feels overwhelmed (sensory overload).

Children with autism can be easily overwhelmed by a sound, smell or situation, making them feel very uncomfortable. Headbanging due to a sensory overload may be used to help focus and control a situation soothing the child until they feel more in control.

When a child has a sensory deficit.

Alternatively, an under-stimulated child may use headbanging to stimulate their vestibular system in a way to make them feel good. Distractions can provide comfort to a child such as a vibrating pillow or a well-secured bouncing chair.

When a child is attempting to communicate.

He/she may use headbanging as a method to get your attention. Children often communicate via movement, and if they learn that the method of headbanging gets a carers attention, they will continue to use this repetitive behaviour.

Used as a part of a nightly routine.

As with many children, a routine before bedtime allows a child to prepare for sleep. Autistic children often find the repetitive movement of headbanging quite tiring and so it is used to tire and soothe themselves ready for sleep.

Physiological Reasons for Headbanging in Autistic Children

Stephen M. Elderson, PhD, explains that headbanging can also come from biochemical and genetic factors. He suggests headbanging is performed as a method to produce/release endorphin's that either create an anaesthesia-like effect so that the child doesn't feel the pain of headbanging or provides the individual with a euphoric like feeling.

He goes to explain that the Autism Research Institute in San Diego have received reports from thousands of parents who have given their son/daughter vitamin B6, calcium, and/or DMG observed a dramatic reduction in self-injurious behaviour. For more information, click here.

Can Headbanging Cause Brain Damage?

For parents, the concern that their child may cause brain damage is very common. Children under the age of three are less likely to cause long-term damage as their hands are designed to handle the impact of learning to walk etc. A cause for concern is when a child is strong enough to hurt themselves create a higher risk of lasting damage.

Can an Autism Helmet Protect my child?

Providing your child with a medical helmet will help to prevent an injury and to ease the parent's mind that long term damage is no longer a worry.

Protective helmets such as Ribcap soft helmets are an all in one medical device trusted by several neuro associations. Ribcap's premium quality helmets are highly fashionable to match everyone's style and provide pure comfort for all-day wear.

Each Ribcap contains a uniquely developed foam padding that is light and breathable while providing 360 protection for complete safety. Speaking of safety, check out the link to view our impact test!

Should you want to prevent an injury with a Ribcap medical helmet, check out some of our coolest designs here. 

Written by Leanne Coop

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