Hello and welcome to the message board
This is such a useful issue to explore and I celebrate you for wanting to find out the most useful way to help your child. The first thing to consider is that your child is doing the best he can with what he knows and that he does not filter the world through the same lenses that you or your husband do. He is dealing with a world that is highly unpredictable and over stimulating to him. The basis of the Son Rise Program is to nourish and inspire your son’s desire to make meaningful social connection. That means we want to model that the people in his life are user friendly, approachable, loving and trust worthy. This message would not be sent to him if you or anyone else were to pinch him back. To pinch him back would send him the message that he was being judged and physically harmed by the person who pinched him which most likely he would have less of an inclination to want to be around that person, withdrawing deeper into himself and further away from others.
When helping your child with a particular challenge consider what your intention is. Hold the intention that it is wonderful that you get to teach him more useful ways to get his needs met in the world and that you get to show him that you are loving and accepting him in his entirety.
We believe that our children will go to hitting, pushing, biting etc. when they are trying to communicate something. Be a happy detective, investigating with loving curiosity how is this serving my boy. What happens before he pinches or bites and what happens after? Was he getting control? Was he exclusive and then interrupted? Are people celebrating and responding to the more useful ways he communicates? Is he seeking a reaction? Not in a malicious way is he seeking a reaction but more in a way that is it exhilarating to see, like an animated cartoon character or a Christmas tree lighting up. Watch people’s reactions when he does this they may raise their voice, their eyes go wide, their skin may change color, they may throw their hands up and smoke might billow out of their ears
. Are you giving him enough space when in you are joining him or playing with him? Are you interrupting his ism? Another thing to consider is he may be experiencing a surge of energy that he needs to get out of his sensory system. You mentioned that he does this to display affection, model more useful ways to play, offer squeezes, tickles, and hugs.
Once you have a better understanding of what may be triggering your son to express himself in this way you can adjust yourself or the environment to set your son up for success. He is using this behavior because it serves him in some way. He is smart and a master at taking care of himself.
Now you have your intention and you are more in tune of what is happening before and after, let’s review what you can do when your son is using this behavior. The first thing is to do your best to hold a place of being calm and loving on the inside. On the outside you will have a reaction and expression of dull and flat. Remember, what we give reactions to will grow that behavior in our children. In a regular calm voice explain to your child that you do not understand what he wants when he hits and that he can show you or tell you. You do not have to be a punching or pinching bag! Take care of yourself. Offer your child an alternative. Tell him when you bite and hit it does not feel good on your body and that you are going to take care of yourself. When you see him coming to bite offer something other than your flesh, like a chew toy. When he is hitting place something between the two of you. We will use the big yoga ball and place in between us. If he pinches a lot you can tape your skin. The entire time you are dull not raising your voice. The point is to not give a big reaction to this.
There are times when the children we work with will get to us and bite us. In these times we will in a very gentle way push into the bite and when the child releases then we move away so that we are not accessible. When you are calm your body is relaxed and the bite does not hurt as much. Remember he is doing the best he can with what he knows.
Be clear with your child if you see that he is using it to get something you are setting a boundary on. For example, if he is trying to get a cookie and you only are allowing him one cookie a day then you have to be clear that biting and pushing is not the way to get what he wants. Here you will have to stand your ground and really get behind your boundary by following through and believing you are strong and that this is the best thing for your boy. This means that he does not get the cookie and you are with him, lovingly letting him know that no matter how much he bites and hits he will not get the cookie.
When your child is gentle with you that is what you react to with a celebration. You are guiding your child in your celebrations, explanations, and what you model to him in your own behavior. Have fun.
I suggest that you write back and let us know when your child tends to use this behavior. That way we can give you more specific techniques. We suggest for you , your husband and your perspective volunteers to watch William Hogan’s webinar on aggressive behavior http://www.autismtreatmentcenter.org/contents/other_sections/autism-aggressive-behaviors.php
With loving and joyful support,