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Head banging in autism and the five reasons why your child might be banging or hitting their head.

Many autistic individuals engage in self-injurious behaviours and head banging seems to be one of the most common. They might slam their head against a wall. Or the floor. Or some piece of furniture. They're clearly hurting themselves...But why?

Why is this self-injurious behaviour so common in autism?

Well, here are 5 reasons why your autistic child might be engaging in head banging or head hitting behaviour.

Understanding the why behind the behaviour can help you tailor your approach to handling the behaviour - dare I say it? - head on.


Autism & Head Hitting: 5 Reasons Why it Might be Occurring

There are lots of reasons why your child might be hitting or banging their head. And if you pay close attention to what happened prior to the onset of the head banging behaviour, then you can usually pinpoint what the cause might be, especially if your child is currently nonverbal or pre-verbal.

Here are 5 reasons why head banging might be happening:
 head banging in autism why it is happening square

1. Your Child is Having Sensory Processing Issues

Head banging can also be a sign of sensory processing issues, either from sensory overload or from a sensory deficit.
Your child can get both vestibular and pro-prioceptive sensory input from banging their head and to them, head banging feels good and helps them self-regulate.

2. Your Child is Attempting to Communicate

You're probably heard the phrase "all behaviour is communication" and it's so true. Head banging might be how they choose to express frustration or anxiety, for instance. 

3. Your Child is in Pain

It might seem odd to think that your child's head banging behaviour is occurring because they are currently in pain, but banging one's head can serve as a distraction from any pain or discomfort they are experiencing elsewhere in their body. 
The head banging behaviour is essentially used to mask pain or discomfort.

4. Your Child is Seeking Attention

Self-injurious behaviour like head banging is sure to draw the attention of an adult. A child can quickly learn that banging their head is one quick way to make their parents rush over to intervene.

5. Your Child is Trying to Escape Demands

If you are mid-activity with your child and they start to bang their head, then it might be that the head banging is being used as an escape tool. 
Were they finding the activity too challenging? Too boring? 
Your child may have learned a long time ago that they could avoid or escape activities by doing something disruptive. Head banging gives them one such disruptive behaviour to use as an escape.
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