Topics Dealing with Aggression and Autism
Biting and Autism
daughter, Schaefer Archard is seven years old with a
diagnosis of PDD with autistic spec., language disorder,
EXTREME ADHD, she is very impulsive. She also has epilepsy.
She takes tegretal and risperdol. She has not had a
seizure since July 1997, since she began taking the
tegretal. Our biggest issue we are having with her at
this time is aggression. She will push and bite other
children for no apparent reason. She is disciplined
for this and will even tell us "No bite" but she continues
to have problems with this. any suggestions would be
A: Many children will
bite, scratch, kick, hit, and throw things unexpectedly
at people, among other things. There are generally three
things to check out right away with your daughter. They
- How you (and the people around your daughter)
react to the biting. When bit, most people react
both outwardly (by yelling, making pained expressions
on their face, pulling away quickly, among other
things) and inwardly (getting mad, frustrated, annoyed,
upset, or another kind of discomfort).
Many children will do behaviors specifically because
of the reaction they get from the people around
them. It can be very entertaining and interesting
for some children to watch their parents gesticulate
and have tremendous facial expression. You become
like a cartoon, and most kids really like cartoons,
specifically because of their exaggerated quality.
We have found that whatever you react to in a child
grows. Meaning, if your daughter bites you and you
make a big deal out of it, she is more likely to
continue biting you, because it's fun to watch you
make a big deal out of anything. Once you've been
bitten, protect yourself from it happening again,
in a calm and easy way. Do not try and discipline
her right now… you are most likely just encouraging
the behavior by yelling or speaking with an irritated
Also, your internal reaction is vital as well. It's
not that you are supposed to fake feeling calm,
but that you actually do feel calm. This is important
because we see repeatedly that children can sense
how the people around them feel emotionally. If
you feel bad (or sad, angry, frustrated, etc.),
this counts as a reaction too! And you very well
may be encouraging the behavior by having a discomfort.
For ideas on how to feel comfortable when this is
happening, I recommend the book, "Happiness is a
Choice", by Barry Neil Kaufman.
- The second thing to check out is: Am I giving
her what she wants when she bites? I once worked
with a mother whose child would throw 75-minute
tantrums every day. "What happens when he finishes
his tantrum?" I asked her. "I take him to Taco Bell
and get him soft tacos." she said. "Why do you do
that?" "Well, he's cried for so long, I figure if
he wants a taco that bad, I'll give it to him"
Inadvertently, she was systematically teaching him
that throwing a 75-minute tantrum worked really
well to get what he wanted. This is just one example.
The idea is to ask yourself, does the biting work
to move me? Do I give her something because she
bit me that I wouldn't have otherwise given her?
If so, it's important that you change that. As long
as a child believes that biting works the best to
get things, that will be what they resort to when
nothing else is working. So instead, when your child
communicates in a way that you want, have that work
As a side note: I am not encouraging you to give
your child ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
if they ask for it in a nice way. You can still
set whatever boundaries you feel are important.
- Another thing you can try: if she starts to bite,
or you see warning signs that it's coming soon,
offer her different physical stimulations. For example,
squeeze her hands and feet, if she allows it, and
even massage her jaw. Some children get bursts of
energy, which can be released by your squeezes.
You can also offer other kinds of physical activity,
like doing a chase game.
so many questions this time… thank you for sending them
For those of you who didn't get you're questions answered
(or those who have questions now), you can post your
question on the Son-Rise Message Board and the entire
Son-Rise internet community can help you out!
I hope everyone has a great winter! Enjoy your children.
Intro to Q&A Session
with Sensory Integration Dysfunction