What To Do If Your Child With Autism Hits You?

Children with autism may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or confused, which can lead to aggressive behaviors. They may also have a difficult time communicating their needs or emotions, which can lead to hitting or biting as a way of expressing themselves.

reuben kesherim
Published By Ruben Kesherim
December 1, 2023

What To Do If Your Child With Autism Hits You?

What to do in the moment?

When your child with autism hits you, it can be a stressful and overwhelming experience for both you and your child. It's important to remember that hitting is a form of communication, and your child might be trying to express something they can't put into words. The first thing you should do is ensure your safety. If your child is hitting you, it's important to remove yourself from the situation to prevent injury.

It's natural to feel upset or angry when your child hits you, but it's important to avoid yelling or using physical force as a way to stop the behavior. This can escalate the situation and make it more difficult to reach a peaceful resolution. Instead, try to remain calm and use simple language to communicate with your child. Use short and direct statements, such as "No hitting" or "Hands down."

It's important to avoid engaging in a power struggle with your child. This can make the situation worse and cause your child to become even more upset. Instead, try to redirect their attention to an activity they enjoy or find calming. You can also try to identify what might be causing their frustration or anxiety and address it in a calm and supportive way.

Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing challenging behaviors in children with autism. Every child is unique, and what works for one child might not work for another. If you're struggling to manage your child's hitting behaviors, it's important to seek support from a qualified professional, such as a behavior therapist or autism specialist.

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Understanding the different types of hitting behaviors

It's important to understand that hitting behavior in children with autism can manifest in different ways. Some children may hit as a way of expressing frustration or anger, while others may hit as a form of self-stimulation or sensory seeking. Understanding the underlying cause of your child's hitting behavior can help you develop effective strategies for managing it.

For example, if your child is hitting as a form of self-stimulation, providing alternative sensory activities such as squeezing a stress ball or playing with textured toys might be helpful. If your child is hitting out of frustration or anger, teaching them alternative ways to express their emotions such as using words or taking deep breaths can be beneficial.

It's also important to note that hitting behavior can be triggered by environmental factors such as changes in routine or sensory overload. Identifying and addressing these triggers can help prevent hitting behavior before it occurs.

By understanding the different types of hitting behaviors in children with autism and addressing them appropriately, parents and caregivers can create a safer and more supportive environment for their child to thrive in.

Identifying the root causes of hitting behaviors in children with autism

To effectively manage hitting behavior in children with autism, it's important to identify the root causes of the behavior. This can be achieved through careful observation and tracking of when and where the hitting occurs. Keeping a behavior log or journal can be helpful for identifying patterns and triggers.

In addition to environmental factors, hitting behavior can also be linked to underlying medical or mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or sensory processing disorder. It's important to work closely with your child's healthcare provider to rule out any underlying medical issues that may be contributing to their hitting behavior.

Another factor that may contribute to hitting behaviors in children with autism is communication difficulties. Children with autism may have difficulty expressing their needs or understanding social cues, which can lead to frustration and hitting as a means of communication. Working with a speech-language pathologist or communication specialist can help your child develop alternative ways of communicating their needs and emotions.

By identifying the root causes of hitting behaviors in children with autism and addressing them appropriately, parents and caregivers can help their child learn more effective ways of expressing themselves and reduce the likelihood of future hitting incidents.

Strategies for managing hitting behaviors in public or social settings

Managing hitting behaviors in public or social settings can be particularly challenging for parents and caregivers of children with autism. The first step is to be prepared. Always bring a calming activity or toy with you, such as a weighted blanket or fidget toy, to help your child regulate their emotions.

It's also important to set clear expectations before going out in public. Talk to your child about what behavior is expected of them and the consequences if they hit or become aggressive. Use positive reinforcement when your child demonstrates appropriate behavior, such as praising them or offering a small reward.

If your child does become aggressive in public, it's important to remove them from the situation as quickly and calmly as possible. Take them to a quiet and safe space where they can calm down, such as a restroom or private area.

Remember that hitting behavior is not a reflection of your parenting skills or your child's character. It's simply a manifestation of their challenges with communication and emotional regulation. Seek support from other parents of children with autism or from qualified professionals who can offer guidance on managing hitting behaviors in public settings.

With patience, understanding, and effective strategies, parents and caregivers can help their children with autism learn more appropriate ways of expressing themselves and reduce the likelihood of hitting behaviors in public settings.

The Role of Medication in Managing Hitting Behaviors in Children with Autism

Medication can be an effective tool for managing hitting behaviors in children with autism, particularly when combined with behavioral therapy. However, it's important to note that medication should never be used as the sole treatment for hitting behavior and should always be prescribed by a qualified healthcare provider.

There are several types of medications that may be used to manage hitting behaviors in children with autism, including antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers. These medications work by regulating brain chemistry and can help reduce aggression and improve emotional regulation.

It's important to work closely with your child's healthcare provider when considering medication as a treatment option. They can help determine which medication is best suited for your child's individual needs and monitor any potential side effects.

In addition to medication, it's important to continue using behavioral therapy techniques such as positive reinforcement, communication training, and social skills training. When used together, medication and behavioral therapy can help children with autism learn more effective ways of expressing themselves and reduce the likelihood of hitting behaviors.

Teaching social skills to help reduce hitting behaviors in children with autism

Teaching social skills is an effective way to reduce hitting behaviors in children with autism. Social skills training can help your child learn appropriate ways of expressing themselves, understand social cues, and develop positive relationships with others.

Social skills training can be done through individual therapy sessions or in a group setting. In individual therapy, the therapist will work one-on-one with your child to identify areas where they may need support and teach them specific strategies for improving their social skills. In a group setting, your child will have the opportunity to practice their social skills with other children in a safe and supportive environment.

Some common areas targeted in social skills training include:

  • Understanding facial expressions and body language
  • Learning how to start and maintain conversations
  • Developing empathy for others
  • Understanding personal space boundaries

By teaching these essential social skills, parents and caregivers can provide their children with autism the tools they need to communicate effectively and interact appropriately with others. This not only helps reduce hitting behavior but also improves overall quality of life for both the child and their loved ones.

Prevention is key

Preventing hitting behaviors is key to managing aggression in children with autism. It can be a difficult task, but identifying triggers that can lead to hitting is an important first step. Sensory overload or frustration with a task are common triggers that can cause hitting behavior.

Once you've identified these triggers, you can work on developing strategies to prevent them. For example, if your child is overwhelmed by loud noises, you can use noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs to reduce sensory overload. Similarly, if your child is struggling with a task, you can break it down into smaller, more manageable steps to reduce frustration.

It's important to remember that every child with autism is unique, and what works for one child may not work for another. That's why it's important to work closely with your child's therapist to develop a personalized plan for managing hitting behaviors. Your child's therapist can help you identify triggers and develop strategies to prevent hitting, as well as teach your child coping strategies, such as deep breathing exercises or sensory breaks.

Seek professional help

If you've noticed that your child's hitting behavior is persistent or severe, it's important to seek professional help. While it's common for young children to hit from time to time, it's important to address the behavior when it becomes a pattern. A behavior therapist or psychologist can work with your child to develop coping strategies and address underlying issues that may be contributing to the behavior.

It's important to remember that hitting behavior can be a symptom of an underlying issue, such as anxiety or frustration. A trained therapist can help your child learn to manage these emotions in a healthy and constructive way, instead of resorting to hitting.

Additionally, a therapist can work with you to develop strategies for managing your child's behavior and reducing stress for both you and your child. It's important to create a consistent and positive environment for your child, and a therapist can help you create this environment at home.

If you're looking for a therapist in your area, you can visit the American Psychological Association website at www.apa.org to find a list of qualified professionals in your area. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and it's important to address any issue that may be impacting your child's well-being.

FAQs

Is hitting behavior common in children with autism?

It's not uncommon for children with autism to exhibit hitting behavior, particularly when they become frustrated or overwhelmed.

Should I punish my child if they hit me?

Punishing a child for hitting is generally not an effective strategy and can make the behavior worse. Instead, focus on identifying the underlying cause of the behavior and addressing it in a calm and supportive way.

Can hitting behavior in children with autism be cured?

There is no "cure" for hitting behavior in children with autism, but it can be effectively managed through a combination of behavioral therapy, medication (if appropriate), and social skills training.

Is hitting behavior always a sign of aggression?

Hitting behavior in children with autism can manifest in different ways and may not always be a sign of aggression. It may also be a form of self-stimulation or sensory seeking.

What should I do if my child hits someone else in public?

If your child hits someone else in public, it's important to remove them from the situation as quickly and calmly as possible. Take them to a quiet and safe space where they can calm down, such as a restroom or private area. Apologize to the person who was hit and offer any assistance you can.

Can hitting behavior in children with autism improve over time?

With consistent support and effective strategies, hitting behaviors in children with autism can improve over time. It's important to work closely with your child's healthcare provider to develop a personalized plan that works for them.

Will my child outgrow hitting behaviors as they get older?

There is no guarantee that your child will outgrow hitting behaviors as they get older, but many children do learn more effective ways of expressing themselves over time through therapy and social skills training. It's important to remain patient and consistent in your approach to managing hitting behaviors.

Conclusion

In conclusion, hitting behaviors in children with autism can be challenging to manage, but with the right strategies, it is possible to reduce the behavior and improve your child's quality of life. Remember to remain calm and seek professional help if needed.

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