How to Prevent Your Child with Autism From Biting
Parenting a special needs child is more rewarding than we can explain, but it also comes with its challenges. If your child with Autism is biting, you’re experiencing one of these difficulties right now. Biting can be scary, as it is harmful to your child and those around him or her. At the same time, though, biting is a fairly normal behavior. The American Disabilities Association even considers biting a possible sign of Autism.
Even though it’s common for children with Autism to bite, it’s something that needs to be addressed. Of course, you cannot let your child bite themselves or others. With that said, what can you do to help stop your child with special needs from biting?
First, it’s important to understand the reason behind the action. Once we’ve got a full understanding of why children with Autism bite, we’ll discuss how to stop it.
Why Children with Autism Bite Themselves
If you’re struggling with your child with Autism biting themselves, it may be due to something called “stimming.” Stimming is a term that refers to self-stimulatory behaviors. You may notice your own stimming behaviors when you think about how you tap your fingers on your desk at work when you’re thinking, or how you hum when you walk down a long hall by yourself. You do these things almost unconsciously as a result of how you’re feeling. In a way, they may improve emotions you dislike, they may help you focus, or they may help you tune out of an uncomfortable situation.
When a child bites themselves as a stim, they are reacting to something they are feeling or experiencing. They may be overwhelmed, overstimulated, tired, uncomfortable, etc. It may also be an unwanted response to boredom.
The CDC reports that almost one third of children with Autism exhibit behaviors that lead to self-harm. If your child seems to have a stim that causes them to bite themselves, try to find comfort in knowing that it’s a common behavior. We will discuss strategies that can help your child move on toward safer, healthier stims later on in this post as well.
When Children with Autism Bite Others
If your child is biting others, it’s likely for a reason other than stimming (though the solutions to each challenge are quite similar). Biting others is often referred to as a form of aggression. Aggression can sound like a scary word, but it doesn’t have to be. Of course, aggressive behaviors are something that your child will need guidance with. They are not, however, a sign of who your child is.
Below are two reasons why your child may be exhibiting aggressive behavior:
It’s long been known that Autism and sensory challenges go hand in hand. Children with Autism often have a difficult time meeting their sensory needs. If your child is having trouble meeting an oral sensory need, they may resort to biting. The frustration that comes from not being able to meet this need can lead to what looks like aggressive behavior from the outside.
Sometimes, biting can even be a child with Autism’s way of telling you what they need. This can be the case whether they are verbal or nonverbal. The Autism Treatment Center explains that if your child can get what they need faster by biting you than they can by using their words, they may go for the bite more often than not. They may also bite because they are unable to communicate what they need, which leads to frustration.
How to Stop Your Child with Autism from Biting
There are quite a few reasons behind why children with special needs bite. Luckily, most reasons can be improved with the same set of solutions.
Praise Incompatible Behaviors
Your child won’t be able to bite someone if they’re using their mouth for something else, and that’s just what incompatible behaviors are. With this method, you can try to give your child a task to complete with their mouth, and give them praise while they’re completing it.
Here are some behaviors that are not compatible with biting:
- Having a snack
- Blowing bubbles
- Chewing gum (if your child is able to chew gum safely)
- Praise your child with Autism for biting an appropriate object
If Your Autistic Kid Is Biting Try To Keep Them Busy
Another way to help your child refrain from biting is to keep them busy on a predictable schedule. This method works well if your child is biting out of boredom, or if they are biting out of frustration that could be improved with a bit more predictability.
Here are some ways to help your child stay on a schedule:
- Create a visual schedule, so your child can see what is coming next
- Provide activities that help your child meet their sensory needs
If Your Child with Autism is Biting: Try to Avoid Over-stimulation
Avoiding over-stimulation goes back to the communication-related reason for biting. Over-stimulation is common in children with Autism, and if they are not able to communicate how they’re feeling with you, it can also lead to aggressive behavior such as biting.
If you’d like to learn more about sensory overload and how you can avoid it, you can read more here.
Provide Your Autistic Child An Appropriate Outlet to Meet Their Oral Sensory Need
One of the easiest ways to help put a stop to your child with Autism’s biting is to give them something that they’re allowed to bite and chew on. This is extremely successful since it can be beneficial no matter the reason behind the bite. If your child feels the need to bite and they have an appropriate object with them, they are far less likely to bite themselves or others.
ABA Therapists often use sensory chews as their tool of choice when helping children who bite others or themselves. However, you don’t need a professional to begin using a chew. It’s an item you can easily introduce to your child on your own.
If you’re ready to try a chew for your child with Autism, spend some time looking through ChuBuddy’s product line. We have a variety of chews, from handheld chews to bracelets and necklaces. We have products for light chewers, heavy chewers, and everything in between.
While you work toward stopping your child with Autism’s biting, remember that you aren’t alone in this struggle. Many children with Autism bite, and it’s completely possible to help them move on from aggressive and self-harming behaviors. With a deeper understanding of why biting occurs and a few new methods to move past it, you and your child will be able to move on from biting with confidence and success.