Special Needs & Autism Tips
for Kids and Parents
Understanding why your child is engaging in head banging is the first step towards helping them stay safe. Here, we’ll give you the tools you need to help them feel better.
In order to prevent head banging, the first step will be gaining a greater understanding of why head banging happens. After that, you can try other methods such as:
- Sensory distraction
- Repurposing the movement
- Using a helmet
- Nighttime protection
The most important thing to do when your child is banging their head is to make sure they are in a safe space in which they don’t feel overstimulated. In many cases, to help your child calm down, they need to feel like their environment is safe and quiet. In this article, we’ll review common reasons for head banging and autism, and discuss autism head banging strategies to ensure that you are equipped with the proper information to assist with the wellbeing of your child.
Why do People with Autism Engage in Head Banging?
It is important to remember that not all people with autism experienc$e the same tendencies. Just because one child does not experience head banging tendencies does not make it abnormal for another child. Autism can look different for any two people, and therefore, pinpointing the reasons for your child’s personal reactions can be that much more important. Discovering the causes for head banging will, in turn, help you find the individualized care that your child needs.
The Vestibular System
The function of the inner ear is to help with balance. If you’ve ever experienced motion sickness, that is the vestibular system at work. For a person with autism, the function of the vestibular system may be altered. In that case, a child’s relationship with motion and movement will be different, which can inform the hypo-reactive head banging movement.
Sensory processing disorder is a common concurring condition for children with autism. SPD is a condition in which stimuli are either under-processed or over-processed and can affect the way a child responds to smell, feel, taste, noise, etc. For some children with autism, an overstimulation of the senses can result in actions like head banging.
Sensory underload, while similarly caused by SPD, might seem like a more surprising reason for head banging. In this case, the child might use head banging as a way to find comfort. While using this as a coping mechanism is more common in babies or toddlers, a toddler head banging autism tendency that continues into childhood will perhaps be as a reaction to some of the other reasons listed below.
Head banging can be a common way for a child with autism to distract from other pain they might be experiencing. While it might seem counterproductive to others, this solution can be a rather comforting one for the child, and in order to stop your child from hurting themselves further, we’ll discuss solutions below.
Most children will throw tantrums and fits of frustration when they can’t figure something out when they can’t get what they want, or they feel frustrated within a situation. For children with autism hitting their head to a surface can be a way to express that frustration.
In the same way that most children will have meltdowns, most children will also try a variety of things to get your attention. For children with autism, head banging can be a way that they know will grab your attention. Drawing your attention to help with feelings of discomfort, sensory overload or sensory underload, pain or frustration are all reasons why a child might begin banging their head.
Autism Head Banging Brain Damage
Learning more about the long-term effects that head banging can have on the brain of a child with autism can be quite scary, but staying educated is the best way to understand how to help your child.
For a child with autism, head banging brain damage isn’t much of a concern until a child is of three years of age, or older.
The skull of a baby or toddler is designed to absorb impact and will help protect your toddler from any damage that head banging might cause otherwise. That said, a child over the age of three years old does not have that same natural protection. Likewise, the body strength a child obtains over time will make them more capable of inflicting brain damage.
Of course, brain damage is far less likely without repetition. If a child repeatedly engaged in head banging against a hard surface, the likelihood of damage will increase. Equipped with the tools to stop head banging, or strategies to keep your child safe during a head banging reaction, you will help prevent any long-term brain damage.
How to Stop Head Banging
Watching your child participate in head banging can be an extremely alarming and frightening experience. Most parents and caregivers are rightfully concerned first and foremost about the wellbeing of their child, so head banging can be a scary thing to witness.
If you are feeling helpless, you’re not alone. First, try to rid the area of any dangerous objects. If you notice your child getting upset or frustrated, make sure any sharp or heavy objects are out of reach. Then, here are some ideas you can try.
Head banging can be an exacerbated version of rocking, so getting your child onto a swing or rocking chair can help ease their own motion. If you don’t have that at your disposal, you can try applying gentle pressure to the head, or engaging in physical activities that are safe and fun. For example, some parents or caregivers might enlist the help of a yoga ball or trampoline to stimulate motion in alternative ways.
Repurpose the Movement
In addition to external rocking motions, you can use vibrating objects to repurpose the energy. For example, a massage chair, a vibrating stuffed animal, or an electric toothbrush can help repurpose the movement into something your child can also hold onto. External sensory objects can be extremely soothing to a child with autism.
Autism Head Banging Helmet
If your child has a frequent habit of head banging, trying a hard or soft shell helmet can be a good way to ensure their safety. If your child has a particular dislike for certain materials, you might have to try out a few different protective products before finding something that works. For example, perhaps a helmet with a neck strap does not appeal to your child. In that case, a protective headband might be a better fit. If your child is particularly sensitive to noise (which might be a cause for head banging), you can also consider the use of noise-canceling headphones.
For nighttime, help your child regulate their emotions by encouraging a nightly bedtime routine, and use a bed with a protective covering, or a sensory safe place to ensure their comfort and sensory familiarity. With these precautions, a good night sleep will be sure to help your child regulate their emotions during the day.
To ease your anxiety and assist with the safety of your child overnight, Cubby Beds provides sensory regulation, safety sheets, a circadian light, mesh fabric doors, a soothing speaker, and a camera & microphone so you can monitor your child from the comfort of your own bedroom. By prioritizing both safety and comfort, Cubby Beds specifically works to give your child the nighttime sensory-experience they need, and the safety you’ve been looking for.
Conclusion: How to Stop Head Banging
The first step for how to stop head banging will always be education. Learning more about your child’s needs, habits, and coping mechanisms paired with autism awareness and education will then equip you with the knowledge to help with the safety and wellbeing of your child.
Track the triggers, know the signs, and have the tools in place to help your child feel comfortable. For extra nighttime protection, Cubby Beds can be your nighttime tool. Don’t wait for another sleepless night. With a good night’s sleep, you and your child will be better set for success.
For individual assistance, talk to your child’s doctor about their tendencies, and find out which of these methods are best suited for the wellbeing of your child.
A Great Option for Parents of Kids with ASD
The safety of your child is your top priority- and here at Cubby Beds, that’s our top priority as well. That’s why we’ve designed a special needs bed made specifically with children with disabilities in mind.
Cubby Beds offer:
- A padded canopy providing 360 degrees of protection
- Safety sheets that prevent entrapment
- Lock pockets to prevent nighttime elopement
- A night-vision camera and a microphone with motion and sound sensors so that you can check on your child’s safety throughout the night
- A speaker for soothing music or white noise plus a soft circadian light, both designed to help with sensory overload and provide for a calm sleep
If you get in touch with us, we can speak personally about your insurance and financing options. Many families even qualify for full reimbursement. Reach out today, and be on your way to sleeping easy throughout the night.