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.