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Saturday, 18 August 2018

How to Redirect an Autistic Child's Harmful Stims

Do you have a child whose stims cause bodily injury, destruction, or other legitimately negative consequences? This wikiHow will help you learn how to redirect that energy compassionately and effectively.

Autistic teens and adults with this problem should read How to Replace Harmful Stims.


EditEvaluating the Stim

Redirecting stims may be an exhausting task for autistic kids. It's important only to take action when the stim causes actual harm.

  1. Consider whether the stim is actually harmful. Just because a stim is a little odd or noticeable doesn't mean that it's a bad stim. A stim is bad if it fulfills one or more of these criteria:
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    • Does it cause physical harm? (biting, head-banging)
    • Does it pose a health risk? (placing objects in the mouth, spinning until she falls down)
    • Does it make a mess or destroy things? (ripping paper)
    • Does it violate others' personal space? (playing with their hair without permission)
    • Does the autistic child say they want to change the stim?
  2. Do not attempt to stop stims because they look weird. As a parent, teacher, or educator, it's understandable to be worried about autistic children being bullied. However, modifying the child's behavior for this reason sends the message that bullying is the natural consequence of looking different, and it is their fault for failing to be normal. It is the bullies who need the behavior change, not their victim.
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    • Spend part of a day teaching students what autism is, and how to be supportive and helpful.
    • As a teacher, take bullying very seriously (in all forms, for all victims).
    • Cultivate an atmosphere of respect for individual differences. Children will model their behavior after yours.
  3. Consider whether it is worth the energy to redirect. Teaching takes time and effort. It can be even more effort for the autistic child, if the new stim doesn't work quite as well. Trying to redirect too many stims can harm their self-esteem and ability to focus. Save serious interventions for serious cases.
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EditUnderstanding the Stim

Once you've determined that the stim causes legitimate harm, it's time to figure out (1) what need it fulfills and (2) what other stims fulfill the same need.

  1. Figure out what triggers the stim. What circumstances arise before the child begins stimming? Keep a journal tracking each instance. Here are some examples. (Keep in mind that possibilities are not limited to this list.)
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    • Boredom/sensory seeking
    • Frustration
    • Hunger
    • Fear or pain
  2. Consider what need the child is trying to address. Stimming is a tool. Talk to the child about it if you can, or draw hypotheses based on your log. Here are a few example possibilities:
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    • Pain management
    • Sensory seeking (heavy work, touch, vestibular, etc.)
    • Release of pain or emotion
    • Cry for help or attention
  3. Go to the autistic community. There is a group of experienced people who know exactly how these stims work—autistic adults. Try reading blogs and reaching out through the #AskAnAutistic hashtag.
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    • Read lists of stims.
    • Read from autistic adults who had the same stims. What did they use as replacements? Did the replacements work?
  4. Draw up a list of alternative ways to fulfill the need. The child can try these out and use the ones that work best.
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    • For a heavy work sensory seeker, try wall push-ups, lifting heavy objects, and grasping the hands and pulling the elbows away from each other.
    • For a biter, get gum, candy, and chewy jewelry.
    • For a head-banger, try heavy work, hitting their fist or head against couch cushions, or hitting their head against a glider rocker.

EditTalking to the Child

  1. Take the child aside and explain your feelings about their harmful stim. Make it clear why this stim is not a good one, so that they recognize that there is a good reason for them to stop. Then propose your suggestions.
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    • For example, "It worries me when I see you hitting your head like that. You could hurt yourself. I'm sure it's not fun for you either. What if you tried punching pillows, or hitting your head against couch cushions instead?"
    • Many nonverbal children can understand spoken words, even if they look inattentive. Explain it even if you aren't sure that they can understand.
  2. Have a dialogue about the stim. Ask your child if they have any ideas for replacement stims, and what they think would help them use the harmful stim less. If their ideas are incorporated into the plan, it helps them feel ownership of the process.
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    • "Do you think chewy jewelry would help?" "Would you like to help me pick out some jewelry from the website?"
    • "This is the list of ideas I wrote. What do you think? Should we add or change anything?"
    • "Let's go to the store this afternoon, and you can pick out the stim toys you want to try."
  3. Talk about how you can help. Your support can help the child transition to a better coping mechanism. For example, if your son puts objects in his mouth, and the two of you decide that gum is better, he may not have gum on hand all the time. Make it clear that whenever he wants gum, all he needs to do is ask, and you'll give it to him.
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  4. Discuss prevention for stims that only arise under distress. For example, if your student hits herself when she's upset, talk to her about what makes her so upset, and what you can do to help. Maybe she can't handle noisy classrooms, or she's struggling with English, or she has an underlying condition that's giving her headaches. Address the underlying problem and the bad stim may disappear.
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  5. Give gentle reminders if you notice them using the harmful stim again. They may use the stim unconsciously, forget about the alternatives, et cetera. Speak patiently so that they know you aren't mad at them. Ask them what they should do, or remind them what they should do.
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    • "LeBron, is that food? Does it belong in your mouth?" "What belongs in your mouth?"
    • "What do we do when we want to play with hair?"
    • "Remember, when we want to spin, we stop before we get dizzy. Your trampoline is right over there if spinning isn't enough."
    • "Honey, you're hurting your head."
  6. Be compassionate if they are upset. Autistic children may revert to harmful stims if they are under large amounts of stress. Use a very patient tone of voice, and ask as little of them as possible to avoid further stressing them. If they are in danger of harming themselves, give a gentle reminder. Otherwise, choose to remind them once they're calm or just let it slide.
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    • "Julie, I understand you're upset and hurting. Why don't we put a pillow between your hands and your head so you don't injure yourself?"
    • "Please don't bite yourself. Here's your stress ball and chewy toy. Would you like to take one?"
    • "Rosario, I saw that you were hitting yourself this morning. You seemed very upset, and I was worried about you. Would you like to talk about what happened?"
    • Avoid grabbing or crowding them, as they may panic and lash out.
  7. Congratulate them when they successfully use the new stim or ask for help. While they probably understand why they should do it, a little encouragement from you never hurts. It will help them remember to keep working on it, feel proud of their progress, and use healthy stims to keep everyone happy and safe.
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    • "LeBron, I'll get you a carrot right away. Thank you for asking."
    • "Rosario, I'm glad that you told me that the classroom was too loud as soon as it started bothering you. You didn't hit yourself once! Feel free to come to me any time you're getting really upset."
    • "Julie, I just wanted to say how brave and strong you were, head-butting the couch cushions today instead of punching yourself. You did a wonderful job handling your frustration, and I'm proud of you."
    • "Alison, thank you for biting your chewy necklace instead of your hand. Let me know if you want any gum to chew if you get tired of your necklace."

EditPositive Lifestyle

The right lifestyle can help an autistic child adapt well to the world and live a happy life.

  1. Give your child plenty of exercise. Activity can help boost mood, improve general health, and moderate the need to stim. Try taking walks, swinging, hiking, climbing, swimming, biking, and whatever the autistic child might enjoy.
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  2. Offer plenty of positive stimming activities. Stimming is important to your child's sense of well-being. Here are some items you can keep around the house for them to interact with:
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    • Beanbag chair
    • Swing
    • Fidget toys (tangles, stress balls, and more)
    • Floor trampoline
    • Lava lamps and fans to watch
  3. Protect your child from anti-autism influences. Some therapists will try to force compliance, extinguish stimming, or do other things that harm your child. Only take your child to therapy that they enjoy (or at minimum, feel neutral towards). Make it clear to other adults that your child's differences are to be respected.
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    • ABA therapy can be dangerous, particularly if done by providers who aren't careful in their approach. Be cautious about compliance-based therapies, as they may harm more than they help.
    • Steer your child away from negative or unkind people. If your child is mistreated, talk to them and explain that what happened wasn't okay and the child didn't deserve it.
    • Autism cannot be cured or ethically suppressed. If someone is claiming that they can do this, beware.
  4. Work on your child's strengths too. Encourage their special interests and other abilities. Find ways to make them feel competent and talented. Growing up is not only about improving one's weaknesses, but building upon one's strengths.
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  5. Keep communication open. Honor all the child's communication attempts—speech, typing and other forms of AAC, gestures, body language, and behavior. Paying attention to the child's communication encourages them to communicate more. Help them learn to recognize their needs and ask for help when they need it.
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  6. Practice patience. Your child faces many everyday struggles that non-disabled people never have to worry about. If you were in their situation, you'd cry and melt down too. Treat them with compassion, and presume competence, and treat them like they want to behave well.
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  7. Shower them with love. Your child is a person with feelings. Show that you care about them (including the autistic parts of them), and that they are not a burden or tragedy in your eyes. Your acceptance and love are what they need most of all.
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  • If the replacement stim isn't working very well, it may be that it doesn't address the underlying need. Go back to researching and observing.

EditRelated wikiHows

EditSources and Citations

from How to of the Day https://ift.tt/2El9pvw
via Peter

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