Beautiful Minds Blog
Hand flapping is a self-stimulatory activity that is commonly seen among children with autism. It is believed that the act of repeatedly flapping or opening and closing your hands is an attempt to soothe sensory overload. A child that has been diagnosed with autism ( or may be on the autism spectrum), who engages in hand flapping behavior tends to do so when they feel stressed out. It is important to watch for this behavior in your child with autism because it is a sign that there is a problem and if that problem is not dealt with, they may end of having an emotional breakdown.
Children with autism tend to be very sensitive to sensations and sounds which tend to cause distress so it is best to try to avoid loud noises and large crowds when possible. In order for your child on the autism spectrum to cope with this form of distress they commonly revert to hand flapping as a way to try to escape the sensory overload they are experiencing.
Some of the strategies that we have found to help replace hand flapping in a child who is experiencing sensory overload are:
1. Make sure to carry a stress ball, playdough, clay or a fidget toy to give to your child on the onset of who could potentially be a situation where your child could experience sensory overload.
2. Give your children a large bear hug to help calm them or teach them how to give themselves bear hugs so that they can learn to self-soothe in a stressful situation.
3. Verbally re-directing your child on the autism spectrum can also be a great tool to use when you sense your child is becoming over stimulated.
Our Los Angeles based Autism Therapy Center works with children ages 2-18 to help redirect inappropriate behaviors, work on sensory issues and identify other behavioral challenges. We strive to help your child with autism grow up learning how to manage these behaviors and stresses in day to day life. At Beautiful Minds Center for Autism we work with your son or daughter in a personalized way to make sure they are able to reach their fullest potential. We teach our parents that it is important to provide consistent strategies over different environments so that your son or daughter will know what do at home, at school and within their community. This avoids unnecessary stresses that could make them revert back to hand flapping.
If you or someone you know has concerns about hand flapping, please feel free to reach out to us at 310-247-8712 and we will be happy to answer any questions you have.
Stress is a part of life even for everyone, not just children on the spectrum, but a child who has autism or other behavioral need some additional help learning to cope with difficult situations that can cause them stress.
Here are some ways that you can help your child on the spectrum cope with stress:
1. Create a Safe Word or Place – Communicate with your child with autism on the importance of them letting you know when there is a situation they are in that is uncomfortable to them. Take the time to help them come up with a safe word (code word) that they can say to you when they find themselves feeling stressed about a given situation. If they are experiencing stress at home or at school talk to them about finding their “safe place” – their bedroom, the classroom, etc. That way when they feel like things are becoming overwhelming for them, they can go to their “safe place” and unwind before rejoining a group activity, a family party, etc. It is also good to practice taking a break in places where there is no quiet area and to practice stepping away from a stressful situation, counting to ten, or visualizing a calming environment.
2. Role Play – it is important to be open with your child on the spectrum about things that can occur in school and the community that can cause them stress, such as not getting their way, being made fun of or called names, hearing the word “NO” from a peer, family member or teacher etc. It is ideal to prepare your child with autism for situations like this. One good way to do this is to cerate a set of situation cards (think of the game clue) have 3 sets of cards that allow you to pick a location (school, grocery store, park etc.) a situation (not being picked for a team, not getting a toy you want, not being able to play with a friend etc.) and some phrases that your child might hear in a situation like this (you’re to slow, we don’t want you on our team, you can’t have that candy bar, it’s not your turn, etc.) pick a card from each category and role play the situation, all the while talking to your child about appropriate responses and behaviors and throwing in other situations that can arise in that particular situation. You can turn this into a family game and each person in your family can take a turn picking cards for everyone to act out. This will allow you to show your child with autism how to overcome obstacles and make good choices even in stressful situations. ,.
3. Find A Way To Help Reduce Their Stress Reducer – Giving your child a stress ball to squeeze or directing them to jump on a trampoline, taking a deep breath and counting to 10, are just some examples of how your child with autism can exert their energy in a positive way when under stress. Teach your child on the spectrum to resort to using their items rather than reacting physically when they find themselves getting stress out or upset to help calm themselves down and regroup.
Children, who have been diagnosed with autism, tend to display tantrum behavior because they have a hard time communicating their wants and needs. Instead of being able to tell someone what is bothering them, what they want, or how they feel, children on the spectrum act out in ways that are hard for a parent to understand.
Here are some helpful ways to teach your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, how to communicate their ideas, and use appropriate actions in stressful situations.
Initial reactions to stressful situations can often be very emotional for a child on the spectrum. Establishing a place for your child to go when they are upset can help de-escalate a potential tantrum situation. Giving them the space they need to calm down and take a break might be exactly what they need to regroup. It is also a great idea to teach your child to ask for a break. Respecting them when they say “Excuse me, I need a break” can make a big difference in how they handle a situation. Practice taking breaks in places where there is no quite area. Learning to step away from a situation and count to ten can make a big difference in your child’s behavior.
Help your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, learn from past situations. Although some situations might not be avoidable, creating strategies’ or routines to relieve stress can be helpful in reoccurring situations that cannot be avoided. Creating lists, providing visuals, coming up with rules or instructions, and role playing, are all ways to help your child learn from past situations.
Sometimes finding appropriate stress reducers are great ways for your child on the spectrum to manage their frustration or anger. Squeezing a stress ball or bouncing on a trampoline are great examples of ways your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, can manage their stress levels. Teaching your child the best items to use in a stressful or unpleasant situation can prevent them from acting out physically when they are upset.
Encourage your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, to write about or discuss the things that bother them or specific situations that stress them out. Dig deep into their feelings by inquiring why these specific situations bother them, so that you know how to prevent, avoid, or react when they come up in the future. This is also a great way for your child to think things through. If your child on the spectrum has a hard time communicating with you verbally, ask them to write down what happened, how they felt, and what actions they think they should take to get through each situation and then use these journal entries to role play each situation to educate them on what choices they have when reacting and what consequences come with each reaction they have.
Communicating ideas, feelings, and interests can be extremely difficult for a child on the spectrum, but with the tips above, we hope to make the communication process easier for everyone.