How to Stop Your Autistic Child From Hitting | Prevent Aggressive BehaviorAutism Mom Blog

How to Stop Your Autistic Child from Hitting

Although autism mainly centers on the inability to effectively communicate (because those with autism do not process or filter information in the same way), a fairly common hallmark of the condition is the additional inability to understand that other people have the same thoughts and feelings as the affected individual.  And this often leads to your child hitting as a method of communicating feelings, getting attention, or protecting a territory.  However, hitting is not an acceptable behavior in children, and it definitely won’t fly as they grow up, so you need to nip it in the bud now, before it becomes a real problem.

How do you stop your child from hitting?

You will first want to determine the cause of your child’s actions.  If you don’t know what is causing him to act out then you won’t be able to effectively address the bad behavior.  Whether your child is hitting siblings, kids at school, or even himself, you need to know what triggers the attacks.  Is he upset about other children invading his space (getting too close, taking his toys, etc.)?  Or is he frustrated by an inability to communicate thoughts and feelings?  Maybe he’s using self-abuse as a method of focusing or “drowning out” other sensory input.  If you can’t figure it out on your own, you may want to see a doctor who specializes in autism or behavioral analysis.

How to discipline your child.

Once you have established the cause of your child’s behavior, one method of dealing with it is to enact consequences.  If you find that your autistic child is hitting a sibling (this generally occurs during disputes over toys), then you must teach him the consequences of his actions just as you would any other child.  Because autistic children are often unable form a correlation between the pain they feel when they are hit and the pain they are inflicting on others through hitting, it will do no good to appeal to their sympathies or allow the other child to reciprocate as an example.  Instead you may simply have to train them through punishment.  So if your kids are fighting over a toy, take the toy away for a period of time.  Or if the autistic child is hitting other children for attention, put him in a time out.  It may take awhile, but eventually he will learn that hitting equals consequences.  When he has finished the punishment, have him apologize so that you know he understands what he did wrong.

If punishment does not garner the desired results, you may want to switch tactics by implementing a rewards system.  Try teaching your child an alternative to hitting others when he feels strong emotions.  For example, use a designated pillow for hitting in place of a sibling so that he can act out his frustration without hurting anyone.  Or teach him to hug instead of hitting (if he us able and willing to do so) so that he receives positive attention instead of negative.  If he cannot form these associations, simply teach him to go to his own space, away from others, rather than hitting or acting out.  This will at least keep him from hurting other children.  Then encourage him when he utilizes his substitute by offering positive attention, praise, or other rewards.

Kyle Simpson is a writer for an online MBA rankings website where you can find information on the most popular online MBA programs in the country.

16 comments to How to Stop Your Autistic Child from Hitting

  • cautious

    This a useful story and good advice. Wish at the time there was this kind of information years ago.When she lived with us my sister use to hit, day and night without adoo. Very frustrating when unexpected.
    It still happened on various occasions into her adulthood, especially when frustrated. When she wen to live in a home, the cause was not always simple to factor out especially when it’s another autistic person! Work that one out.

    All the same, things have got better.

  • nikki

    my daughter 32 months, has not been diagnosed with Autism, but global delay. Doctors say the she shows autistic behaviours. The major problems to begin with was failure to thrive, Global delay and lack of speech. I knew there was something wrong but could not explain what, it was like Kirsty was in her own world and would ignore other people around her, and had repetative play and strange play such as organising things and having to see you do a routine exactly the same all the time. over that past month Kirsty has started to become more hyper with family but ignores strangers. She has problems sleeping. The biggest thing I’m struggling with is her constant hitting. If she is ill she will nip anyone in the face if they are near her, which makes it hard for me to console her,this can be around 15 times in 5 minutes or probably more. She still hits for no apparent reason, I cant find the trigger although it gets more frequent if something is bothering her. My 5 year old is becoming very effected and is constantly being nipped and scratched. Kirsty will even do it with a smile on her face, and gets sad when told off for it but it doesn’t hinder her, she will still hit when in the middle of being told off for it, and at the end of time out. Its like she is not aware she is being punished for hitting. People have stopped inviting her to parties etc and no one will baby sit. This breaks my heart because no one else sees how amazing she is in other ways. Members of the public think she is ignorant or I’m not able to control her and she is very naughty. If I had a diagnosis I could somehow make sense of things and feel more in control. I wonder how many parents are out there trying to deal with these behaviours without knowing why its occurring, who can you turn to for help during the diagnosis stage, and how do you have confidence in your parenting abilities. This rant helped, needed to write this down!!! thanks

    • Nikki:

      My sister is going through the same. My niece is 8 years and was diagnosed with Autism at 2 1/2 years. She showed all the signs your daughter has, an recently she is started to be agressive.She hits my sister constantly and nothing seems to work at home. At school she tries to do the same. Dr has increased her medicine and we are hoping that will calm her down for a while. I think that you should get a second opinion as I’ve never heard of Global Delay !.It’s very frustrating and very stressful and it has nothing to do with your parenting skills.You are a wonderful !

  • Amy

    My son is almost 4, and hits, headbutts and pinches constantly. He does it when he’s told “no,” when someone is trying to take his toy, or just out of the blue, whenever he’s mad at anyone. He does this to me, his mom, most often. The teacher in preschool sends home notes asking how we handle it at home because he does it at school now. I’ve tried verbal correction, time out, spanking (which I know I’m not supposed to do). None of this seems to work. I don’t know what to do. Is there any therapy that would help this. I would try having him go to his own space but he hits too quickly and too randomly to stop him.

  • I have a 15 year old austistic sister and she hits my mom every time she is near her. What should she do?

  • Bron

    Y. Been Feeling less alone right now. Thanks. Unfortunately, i have to say, between. The school/s and home, we have tried all of the above suggestions. He has worn a lanyard with photos of ‘safe people and places’ to turn when he is faced with triggers. To add to the frustration, he is also a ‘runner’. And he is damn quick! He has scaled 7 foot pool safety fences at his school and taken off up the street before anyone has even managed to get too or through the gate. He has had many near misses with traffic, including busses and other large heavy vehicles. Scaled the fences and onto covered walkways, even rooftops. Now if he looks like he is going to exit the classroom or any other building or otherwise safespace, he has to be stopped. This often requires physical contact. Meaning instant sensory malfunction on an already overloaded system. He has pinched, clawed, slapped, punched, kicked and bitten his way free whenever possible. He doesnt need to be touched at all for him to lash out either. We keep his finger nails short, allow him to wear wildly inappropriate gumboots to school (to help slow him down, they are heavy and bulky and wont wrap through the fence bars), but thes have minimal impact on final results. At age 6, he has been suspended a number of times due to violent outbursts. He tends to go for the face alot, even durring general play, accidently hurting others in the process. Tries to tickle peoples faces and scratchs or simply putting his hands in peoples faces. Given that much of the therapies he recieves revolves largely around facial recognition and expression. He now goes to school with something of mine in an atempt to curb his ‘missing’ me or ‘looking for me’, which is sometimes his excusse to flee school grounds. I have even tried volunteering at his school but, he relied on my presents too much. He is a very independent child so it isnt like he ‘needs me to do anything for him’, except to be close by when it occures to him that he wants to check in. This makes life at home and school very tiring and somewhat frustrating. Some methods work for a short time, others not at all. Does anyone have any other ideas? Please, i am willing to try anything. He is a gorgeous personality. Everyone who meets him is impressed by his manners, his ability to see the beauty in everyone and everything and the ease at which he shares those complements. He is by nature a generous ‘old soul’. Therefore, it is a challenge for them and myself, to understand what happens when that switch inside him, flicks. He doesnt lashout physically unless he feels threatened in some way, be it, physical, environmental or emotional. If he ‘thinks’ he might be in trouble, he proceeds to punish himself. He punches himself in the head and face (even causing his lip to split or nose to bleed), bits himself, calls himself names ( i have always been anti nMe calling, to the point where my older children would warn there friends to not name call or call things gay, ect, rather than warn them not to swear as is common in every other household). I dont know what to say when he does this. I have taken too focusing on why, he is say these thing rather than, what he is saying. This has worked for the most part. How is a child who is so sweet and gentle towards others, act so hateful towards himself? It breaks my heart! When he does hurt others in the heat of the moment, i am all out of ideas. He will offer cuddles and appologies ince he understands that he has hurt or upset others but once he has done that, he goes back to turning it on himself. How do i stop either of these things happening? I am sorry for the long confusing rant. Anyone else feel like they need to be accessed for AS when trying to work out their child? Or is it just me? Lol.

  • [...] Autism leaves the child very sensitive to sights, smells, tastes, sounds and touches. Loud music, noise of a mixer grinder or a small coffee grinder, smell of a fish, fluorescent or pulsating high intensity lights or swirling fans may be highly disturbing for the child. www.autismlearningfelt.com [...]

  • Charlotte Quevedo

    My son is seven and hitting people has become a realbproblem for us. The school year just started and I have to fight to get him a one on one because otherwise he is going to be smacking other children at any given moment. The moment my husband leaves or goes to the bathroom he starts hitting me and occasionally he hits his sister. This tends to be more rare because although I know that corporal punishment is bad if there is any time I lose it enough to grab him hardit is when he hits his sister. I normally have to put him in his room the moment he starts crying about anything because trying to console him or ignore him just results in more aggression. Taking him to his room calms him down until the next tantrum arises.

  • tammica scott

    I have a son that is hittin other kids at school and i dont know why and now his teacher is sending note to the house i talk to him everyday about hitting on kids at school itz not nice but itz not workin i need some help i just dohnt want him to get kick out.

    • Tammy

      Have you asked to speak to a Behavior Specialist? One that is trained to work with autistic children? The school should be working with you to help find a way to help your son. It shouldn’t be all on you to handle the situation.

  • Cory harber

    Your child does not have autism at 32 months lady. Parenting just turned out to be a bigger job than you thought.

    • Cory

      I would stop looking for a reason or someone to diagnose your daughter, she is 32 months old. How much do you work? How often do you see her? She sounds like any normal little girl with separation issues to me

  • Heather

    I beg to differ with you Cory…at 26 months we were told that my son had red flags for autism. We didn’t get his diagnosis until he was 4 1/2 d/t insurance issues (medical diagnosis), but had an educational diagnosis by the time he was 3 1/2. Unless you have a child with or work with children with ASD you have no idea! We had some very real signs that I wish I would have fought harder at the time to get an earlier medical diagnosis. My son hits when excited now and even smiles about it at times.the therapist recommend not responding to it as he is getting attention. We r working on redirecting him to hit an object..ie pillow, drum (1 we bought from the autism shop), or the mats we have on the floor. Redirection seems to work best for him, but again every ASd child is different so try to find what will work for her!

  • Karen

    My 6 will be 6 in May he has been dx with autism. He is a hitter and runner. The problem I am having is even though he has a 366 page report on his Autism 2 separate medical dx’s. Plus he has also me dx wild mild retardation. The school says there is a difference between a medical dx and a doctor dx. So they will give him no dx besides developmental delay. Its frustrating because they have main streamed him and he is in sensory overload. His kindergarten teacher has no special Ed background. The do provide him with speech, OT and pull him out of class for special Ed. But he continues to hit kick and write on other children paper. The give him time out and when returned back to class he does it again, he does not kick or hit at home. So I know something is run amuck in his environment. I try to explain to the teachers what he means but they tell me they do not believe he has a behavior problem. Even though he has had many disciplinary actions and calls to our home to pick him up because he is “out of control” I fear of him and other children’s safety while he is at school.

  • my husband and I have a 11 year old that is very abusive with us. and his mother. He will hit you in the head when you are driving down the road, kick the seat, try to pull the dogs eyes out. We have tried everything and nothing works. I called his mom when hes at are home when he does this thing she gives several excuses. Tis child leaves brusises on us and she laughs about it, we need help. HIS MOTHER WORKS AT HIS SCHOOL and we don’t get know help. she will not let his meds get up

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