Most people that have even the slightest awareness of Autism or what it is, knows that many that have Autism have a tendency to hit themselves… sometimes even hurt themselves.
I’ve come to know it as the term ‘Crashing’ and this term encompasses a lot more than just hitting oneself, it also includes bouncing against the mattress (hard), tapping another person on the head often, climbing under the bedsheets or very heavy blanket(s), finding some way to squeeze themselves tightly, pushing off against something repeatedly… and so on and so forth.
For many parents, it can be so bad and so violent that they must resort to medications such as Ritalin to get them to stop or at least calm down enough to not hurt themselves or do damage to something.
For a lot of other parents though, it can often be mild enough that you can do something about it. In my case, my son Cameron does do a wide variety of the things I’ve listed but never really hurts anyone nor himself. What we’ve found is that the best approach is to take the same approach you would use on any other child… give them an outlet.
In Cameron’s case, we showed him how he can get his mattress off his bed, and onto the floor… where he can bounce on it and even sometimes goes completely under it so that the weight can squish him quite nicely. We’ve also become accustomed to the nightly bath routine such that him crawling under the sheets, onto the bare mattress won’t leave either too dirty… although we realize that the mattress isn’t the cleanest place to begin with. I’m toying with the idea of double sheets… for him to get in between… just have to convince my wife to do more laundry.
Anyway, we have a rocking recliner in the living room, where he’s taken to sitting in it and pushing off something with his feet. Sometimes that ‘something’ includes his little brother. I have to keep on top of him but he recognizes that pushing off against the wall with his feet is not only ok but it works better since it doesn’t move when you push it.
Lycra is a miracle fabric that comes in a few product lines already including very tight and stretchable bed sheets (which is a great way to give them that ‘crashing’ feeling while sleeping) and as a body bag. I hate that name, but anyway… it’s a bag that has a velcro top to it and your child gets in it and can stretch out and push any which way.
Basically what it boils down to is finding something else to hit or push or squeeze. Teach your child to take out frustrations or desires for pressure in other ways. And keep in mind that it’s not a perfect science, Cameron still pushes off the rocking chair using his little brother sometimes but for the most part, he almost always uses other ways to heavy things on him, to bounce on or against things and stuff to hit.
Remember, touch (feeling) is just as much a sensory input as sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Smelling something over and over again, passing things back and forth in front of their eyes, putting things in their mouth that they shouldn’t or not putting food in their mouth that they should… these are all common with sensory processing problems.
Find a way to satisfy your child’s need to do these things in a different way than what they’ve been doing thus far. If you can find a way that feels better to them, they may just switch!