Why does my child with autism bang his head?

Chantal Sicile-Kira
Mental Retardation & Developmental Disabilities
There may be different reasons why your child is banging her head, but it is mainly a way to communicate pain or frustration. Your child may be experiencing pain in her head, or ringing in her ears or another health issue, and this could be her only way of communicating that to you. Make sure you have your child thoroughly examined by a doctor who understands autism. Keep track of when and where and how often your child bangs her head, so you can have this information to share with your doctor. And find a way to teach your child some appropriate communication methods.
William Stillman
Health Education

First, it is important to understand and appreciate that the child with autism who bangs his head is COMMUNICATING (thus please refrain from calling it a "behavior" in order to distinguish it from being associated with autism stereotypes).

There could be any number of reasons why your child bangs his head; but foremost, it is your urgent obligation to rule out pain. Is he communicating headaches, allergies, toothache, vision issues? Please be aggressive in identifying potential pain-related issues.

Head banging could also be an issue of proprioception (feeling detached from one's own limbs). Your child may be banging his head to literally know it's still there! Is he otherwise uncoordinated or have low muscle tone? Or does he crave "deep pressure" touch in order to regulate and feel "grounded"?

Finally, head banging may be a communication about communication! Remember, your child's intellectual ability functions at chronological age or higher. If he's treated much younger than he is, or is expected to repeat the same tasks day in and day out, he may well be acting out of sheer boredom and frustration (wouldn't you?)!

Carefully consider these options (and make pain management top priority) when discerning what head banging is communicating. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.