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Dealing with Self Injurious Behavior

Self-injurious behaviors (SIB) occur in a large proportion of children, adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental disabilities. It is one of the most complex behaviors. The most prevalent types of these behaviors are excessive self-rubbing and scratching, head banging, self hitting and hand biting. A person may self-injure for a variety of reasons, from psychological to social factors to environmental ones.


1. React promptly and reliably in the event that the individual harms himself. Severe self-injurious behavior should never be ignored, even if you believe the person is acting in this way to get attention.


2.  Restrict your use of language, facial emotions, and other emotional manifestations. Make an effort to talk clearly, quietly, and in a steady, neutral tone of voice.


3. The individual may be experiencing too much difficulty or overload with a task. If the task is one that needs to be completed, return to it later when the person is more at ease.


4. The person may be uncomfortable with certain tastes, sounds, or smells. Remove the 

offending item from them or lead them to a different room if the smell is upsetting them encourage them to change if their clothing is making them uncomfortable. If the weather is noisy; consider closing the window or providing earplugs.


5. Encourage them to focus on the task instead of self-injury, for example, "Rahul, you have to do this". Encourage them to use visual cues, such as picture symbols, to support their instructions. When self-injury occurs, redirect them to a different activity that cannot be done simultaneously, such as an activity that requires both hands. When they switch to this activity, give them praise, such as "Rahul, you've done a great job with your toys" or something similar.


6. If the person is struggling to stop the behavior, give them some light physical support, such as gently moving their hand from their head with minimal force. Then try to move their attention to something else and be ready to give them some more physical support.


7. Place a barrier between you and the object causing you pain. For example, if you are slapping your head put a cushion or cushion between your head and your hand. If you are biting your hand or arm, put another object for your bite to bite into. If you are banging your head on a solid surface, put cushions or cushions between your head and the surface. Removable padding can be placed on the floor or walls temporarily to reduce the risk of injury.


8. A specialist may advise employing physical restraints like arm restraints, gloves, or helmets if there is a chance of serious injury. These could also lessen the behavior's frequency and sensory experience. Because they are so restrictive, physical restraints should only ever be applied under a therapist's supervision.


Md. Gulzar Ahmad

(Clinical Psychologist)

Mainstream Foundation, Patna, Bihar

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