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Q&A Session 7

Q&A Session 7 with the Director of The Son-Rise Program, Bryn N. Hogan

Topic: Dealing with Self Abuse

Q: My son’s name is Kevin, he is 5 years old, his diagnosis is “An unbalanced translocation between chromosomes 2 & 22”. He has many repetitious behaviors, some avoidance behaviors, no speech (although is working with some success on augmentative devices), and can be self-abusive when upset.

I have been working with my son one on one since August, following the Son-Rise principles and attitudes as much as possible. I've tried working with him in an enclosed “playroom” with limited distractions, and also out of an enclosed room (i.e. throughout the house). When we play he frequently gets very excited (good!!), which can lead to his slapping his face, or butting his forehead (hard) on tables, or doors, or our heads! What have you found is an effective way of dealing with kids who hit themselves, either in excitement or anger?

Thank you,
Eileen L.

A: Eileen,
It’s great that you've been working with him! Numerous parents sent in questions about this subject this time around. Here are some thoughts on it: In most cases, when kids hit themselves, it’s their excitement (lots of energy and no way to get rid of it) or their wanting to provoke a reaction in the people around them.

The first thing to try is to offer him other ways of releasing his energy, like squeezing his body or offering to run laps around the playroom with him. If you get a sense that he’s building up to one of these ‘hitting’ periods, give him the squeezes before the period, if possible. If not, you can offer them as soon as he starts to hit himself. Also, squeeze him directly on the place that he’s hitting (if he's hitting his head against the floor, offer to squeeze his head.)

If this seems to have no impact, then the next thing to do is ask yourself: ‘How am I feeling about this?’ Most people feel uncomfortable in these situations, and the child picks up on that feeling and it is a motivator for the child to keep doing the behavior. Don't worry if you have been feeling bad, you can always turn this around. When you feel and act calm (not reacting in an entertaining way), you’re child will not be getting the same reaction from you, and very well may diminish the behavior. We see this happen all the time. The book, “Happiness Is A Choice”, is a tremendous resource for helping people feel more comfortable.

Other factors to look into:

  • Your child’s diet
  • Is this the way your child gets what he wants? Many children get treats and things once they bang their head or hit themselves, so they learn to do this when they want things. If this is the case, you've got to make it an ineffective method by no longer giving him what he wants when he does this. I believe that I have written about this in previous Q&A’s (see archive), so I won’t go into any further detail on this one.

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Q&A Session 7