Autism Treatment – Self-Injury Behavior and Autism
Self-injury behavior is quite common in autism. I have seen some serious cases where individuals on the autism-spectrum have damaged fingers and hands (from biting) and created deep bruises (from head banging and facial slapping) from self-abusive behavior. There are several theories as to why this occurs, and some resources that can help.
The lack of effective communication skills is likely one of the major reasons for self-injury behavior. The significant language deficits in autism often lead to frustration in a person not being able to communicate their wants or being able to get their point across. The self-abusive behavior such as self-biting can be a way of releasing their frustration. Self-injury can also be a way for an individual on the autism-spectrum to get attention. For example, head-banging or scratching until bleeding occurs will usually draw a parent, therapist or care givers immediate attention. Learning to recognize the different patterns of self-abusive behavior, i.e. the difference between frustration over the inability to communicate versus attention seeking can help in alleviating some of the stress that autistic individuals feel.
Anxiety can be another cause of self-injury behavior. Anxiety in general is high in autism, and if accompanied by self-biting, hitting, slapping, and scratching recognizing the pattern that leads to anxiety, i.e. social gatherings, crowds – then steps can be taken to reduce stressful situations or various treatment intervention, i.e. medication, supplements (GABA, theanine) can be implemented to help ease anxiety.
Recently, studies have uncovered that biochemical changes can occur that contribute to our understanding as to why certain individuals on the autism-spectrum will self-injure themselves. Various chemicals called endorphins are released which influence brain chemistry leading to relief of pain and frustration. In some people these chemicals have a natural calming effect. The improved feelings of calmness may be short-lived, but it does occur. Unfortunately, repeated need to self-abuse is prevalent to induce the endorphin release again. In essence, self-abusive behavior becomes addictive in attempts to get a fix on natural endorphin release for improved sense of temporary well-being.
Some authorities feel that ignoring self-injurious behavior is preferred, but this can be a difficult thing to do for any parent or caregiver. Other reports that learning communication and behavior therapy, possibly along with medication and/or biomedical intervention (diet, supplements) is a better way to proceed. For all family members who are involved in the care of a person with autism learning techniques through communication training is very important. Working with a trained behavior therapist who can help decipher what is causing the self-abusive tendencies can go a long way in eliminating or reducing this troubling behavior.
- Autism diagnosis, treatment, challenges: Join the live chat at 3 pm Thursday - The Oregonian
- The Emotional Blindness of Alexithymia
- True Life's Brothers with Autism: 'We Have the Same Problems As Other People' - People Magazine
- How To Build An Autism&Friendly Workplace - Fast Company
- Dog watch - How attention changes in the course of a dog's life
- Healthy Kids: Experts keep learning more about autism - STLtoday.com
- The world's third-largest software firm says people with autism will comprise ... - Al Jazeera America
- Employing people with autism - Washington Post
- 10 facts about autism spectrum disorder - The Oregonian
- World Autism Day Is Baaaaack
- Are You a Savvy Auntie? Kim Stagliano Shares Autism Action for Aunts.
- Feeling Blue about Autism Speaks' Founders' Interview