Autistic child self-harm behaviors

Tina - posted on 08/27/2010 ( 2 moms have responded )




Hi- I am new here. Just (finally) got a diagnoses for my 10 year old daughter of "moderate-severe" autism. Have been dealing with her issues since I adopted her in 2004. Everything was basically wrote off as related to her FAS. Finally got a pedi psychiatrist who recognized her
in the first visit, and we were finally able to get into a testing center 2 weeks ago.

So, here is the problem... she bites herself, a lot. It is scarring her arms, probably beyond repair at this point. She also "picks" at herself. It started with her nail beds on her fingers, now it is her face, and legs also. She has approx. 16 open sores right now on her body. I have tried EVERYTHING anyone has ever suggested to no avail. Bandaids/bandages don't stay on for more than 5 min unless she is asleep. I put gloves on her hands for awhile, but she eventually was able to even draw blood with them on! We have tried various meds/combinations, with little effect unless they just "snow" her. They had a pair of arm
restraints made for her a couple of months ago- keeps her from bending her elbows so she
couldn't get to her face because she had a staph infection in a sore she had been messing with.
I make her constantly wash her hands, use hand sanitizer, etc. Oh, and she has already figured out how to get out of the arm restraints... and I have tried every way of keeping them on her from ace wraps to long sleeve shirts, to pinning the straps to her shirt.... I am absolutely at my wits end.
I would love to hear from anyone who has seen anything like this, any suggestions welcome.


View replies by

Amanda - posted on 08/27/2010




Hi Tina,

Is there any pattern to what precedes the behavior? My son went through a period of self-injury (and still does, on occasion) and we were instructed to document it carefully, at home and school, before we were given some ideas (his was behavior-related) to deal with it.

What does the pedi-psychiatrist say about it? Could it be overwhelming anxiety? I'm usually not a big drug proponent, but thank god medication is there for people who really need it. And if your daughter's dealing with a massive amount of anxiety (VERY common on the spectrum), there is, luckily, some good medication for that. But I'm sure your child's psychiatrist probably has that in hand.

Please keep us updated on how things are going. And know that I'm thinking of you!

Blogging for Billy at
"Life is a spectrum."

User - posted on 08/27/2010




Hi Tina,

Have you been to an OT who works with children with sensory needs. I have known a couple of children with autism who bite/pick their nail beds....but when settled and calm, the behaviour disappears. I have also known a child who pulled their eyebrows/lashes, body hair, etc...This child was put on meds normally associated with someone with OCD...again, a possibility.

Is she verbal? Can she explain why it is something she does? If it is sensory, it would be in order to block out an even greater sensory input that is too the picking drowns that out.

Does she have fidget toys? Have you tried a compressing vest (it essentially squeezes in like a girdle...many children respond very positively to compressions) Different from this is the weighted vest that helps to "ground" a children with sensory needs...or weight/ankle wrists

Has she had an MRI? Could there be a physiological reason behind her self-injurious behaviours...

Is it possible to have a mouth-guard fitted to restrict her biting...I know she would probably spit it out...but, throwing it out there! If given a chance, would she chew on something like acrylic tubing (small size, like aquarium tubing)

Best wishes,


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