Why does a child of 10 with autism bite their own hand



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bnoble
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Mon May 23, 2011 8:17 am

Hello-

A friend's son is 10 and is autistic. Would you know why he would bite his own hand between his thumb and pointer finger really hard? Can you offer a way to help him stop and insight into what he may be needing? THank you.



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Mon May 23, 2011 8:36 am

Maybe he's really hard on himself and this is a way that he self punishes.


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skonamis
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Mon May 23, 2011 8:44 am

my cousin who is NT, bit his fist when he was a kid. He told me that he bit his fist because he was angry.



izzeme
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Mon May 23, 2011 9:35 am

well, why do you think he needs to stop doing that; is he biting untill it bleeds?
it is quite probarble (?) that he is biting his hand to relax a little, i used to to something simular (though for me, it was chewing on my pinks).
it might seem weird, but the sensation you get from biting yourself can overrule nearly and other input signal, including the ones that are bothering you; kind of like the joke in which you hit your left hand with a sledgehammer so you dont feel the pain of just having yourself hit on the thumb of your right hand, but less extreme.

i think that, if it is just biting forcefully, but not damaging on his hand, you could be better off not trying to stop him, it could be replaced by another self-harm method that does leave marks (extreme example; cutting yourself).
a better way would be to find out what makes him bite, there is probarbly something in the area that bothers him (like the ticking of the clock, or the buzzing of a TV on standby). removing that should also stop him hurting himself.

as for why that place on his hand; probarbly becouse it is the most sensitive to pain from the places he could easily reach...



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Mon May 23, 2011 10:54 am

I don't know if I can answer why your son does this, but I had the same habit for a while during my 20s (!). I would bite the skin on the side of my hand to the point that it became calloused.

It did seem to be something I did as a result of stress, just the general energy drain from being around other people. I think the idea of it being a way to focus on one sensation in order to screen out others sounds like it makes sense. It is a sort of pain that feels good, though I'm not sure why. It also became more of a self-reinforcing habit when the skin of my hand became irritated and itchy.

I thankfully have been able to stop biting my hand, because the calluses were noticeable, and I think they would create a negative first impression during an occasion like a job interview. I am not certain whether this was aided by prescribed antidepressants, which have helped me to gain more control over my compulsions, or whether it was just a switch to other behavior like biting my nails.

I found it helped to use hand lotion and then put a band-aid over the skin to allow it to heal.



open2it
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Mon May 23, 2011 12:04 pm

I know someone who bites their index finger, they do it out of frustration and the area between the index finger and thumb can be pinched to stop pain, mainly for migraines.



Callista
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Mon May 23, 2011 12:09 pm

I do that sometimes. It's not a big deal. Usually I do it to deal with mental confusion, usually overload of some type. I don't bother about it because it's not causing injury, and if it's not causing injury, why worry? (Well, with the possible exception of biting one's hands when they are dirty and exposing oneself to bacteria; but I keep my hands quite clean.)

If the kid's not breaking the skin or causing other similar problems, I wouldn't worry about it. If he is, tell your friend to try a chewy thing (they're "therapeutic", often used by speech and occupational therapists) that he can chew on instead; that may be a possibility if he wants to chew on something. On the other hand, if he wants to specifically chew on his hand, then that might be another problem--again, fidgety things, stress ball, play-doh, whatever. It doesn't have to be outright eliminated to stop any possible injury; teeth are pretty blunt, so it should serve his purposes if he can find a way to just stop doing it so often, so he isn't hurting himself.

If you want to redirect a stim, the best way to do it is figure out why you do it--what purpose it serves for you--and find another thing you can do that serves the same purpose. Only really worth it if it's hurting you, distracting you, distracting others, or just taking up way too much time--stimming in and of itself is harmless; we all do it, though autistics do so much more intensely.


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Last edited by Callista on Mon May 23, 2011 12:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Mon May 23, 2011 12:11 pm

I'm 38 and I still do this when I'm really stressed out to the point of being angry. I actually did it just yesterday in the bookstore after I had to ask a bookseller to please stop chasing me around the store with book suggestions because it was overwhelming me (I was very polite, but it stressed me out a bunch). I suppose it's a combination of being hard on myself and not wanting to flip out in public because of the social ramifications for doing so. As long it's not causing long term damage (and in his mind it's probably causing less damage than the alternative of flipping out), what's the harm? Over time, he'll learn to control it and/or hide it better.


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Meow1971
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Mon May 23, 2011 1:28 pm

I did that too when I was about the same age as a response to overwhelming situations. It was kind of a stim and kind of an anxiety release. I never drew blood but got some interesting bruises (amazing how teachers never really commented on the bruising...).

Anyway, I replaced it with other stims when I got older and that is about the only advice I can give on stopping it; the truth it without extraordinary intervention--restraints--stopping really will not happen and I agree with a previous poster that unless the child is drawing blood/seriously hurting himself then you probably should not stop it.



bnoble
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Mon May 23, 2011 1:35 pm

I appreciate everyone who posted! THank you for all your extremely helpful answers. I am grateful.



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Mon May 23, 2011 1:47 pm

I don't know, I did it when I was angry and could not take it anymore... by now, I do it less visibly onto a finger, but yeah, it helps me with anger.


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Mon May 23, 2011 2:31 pm

I'm in my 20s and I have forever bitten and played with the loose skin above the second knuckles on both hands. I don't bite hard or maliciously, it's just something that soothes me. If this is the case then I wouldn't worry, but if there is actual damage being inflicted then it's something that you should perhaps look at minimizing or finding something else that works to release that stress.



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Mon May 23, 2011 7:20 pm

I am 42 and I still bite the fleshy part of my skin by the thumb. I do it mostly when stressed or angry. It seems to dissipate some of the built up energy in my system.



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Mon May 23, 2011 8:08 pm

I'm 27 and I still bite my wrists. It's a stress/overload thing for me. The harder I bite, the closer I am to a meltdown.

I also chew on my fingers and the sides of my hands, but that's caused by either very mild stress or when I'm thinking/concentrating.


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