How do we deal with inappropriate behavior in children with autism?

How do we deal with inappropriate behavior in children with autism?

Recently, I heard from a parent concerned about her child’s biting behavior, and I also shared a story about a boy with autism sniffing the feet of people around him. There are many other examples of behaviors that are often puzzling when parenting a child with autism.  For example, spitting everywhere, getting saliva on their hands and painting it on things around them, touching or rubbing certain body parts of people around them, touching their genitals, hugging the person next to them unconditionally, mumbling continuously, looking sideways, grinding their teeth, shaking their arms or legs, chewing on things, and other behaviors that are socially unacceptable and affect others.

Most of the time, our reaction is to stop and discipline the behavior, but the truth is that stopping triggers the behavior even more, and while the moment may stop, the problem persists. 

We could talk for 24 hours to understand each of the inappropriate sensory behaviors in children with autism because every child has a different set of conditions. Still, there is one apparent underlying reason and a unifying solution.  They all crave sensory input to recognize themselves.  What that is may vary, but they all need input from the vestibular system and proprioception to be physically aware of their existence across the board. It’s like looking for a snack when the primary food source is insufficient.  It can be seen as a self-regulatory attempt to compensate with the peripheral senses because the staple proprioceptive input is lacking. 

So, what is the holistic solution to this?  It’s to constantly put physical stimuli into the body, which means constant movement and physical exercise.  We all used to play in the field before, running around in circles and even without a purpose. The little kids would run because the big kids would run, and the big kids would run because the little kids would follow them. We need this kind of play and activities.  Young kids can be physically and mentally healthy by running and jumping with peers without a great goal. Avoid the structured schedule and create an environment where kids can run and play without being contained or stopped. Their brains will thank you.

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