All Autism

autism and hitting

What to do about autism and hitting?

Autism and hitting is such a touchy subject. Last week, Charlie hit a little boy at the park. The child’s dad walked over, rightfully angry, to tell me that, though he was okay, that Charlie had struck his little boy. I apologized profusely for not having watched him more closely and explained how Charlie has autism and doesn’t understand the consequence of his actions. He doesn’t seemingly intend to hurt people — it appears that he swats at people because he thinks it’s fun. It’s almost a sensory thing for him.

How to stop hitting in kids with severe autism?

We’ve been trying hard to stop this behavior, but it’s challenging. Charlie occasionally hits us, but it’s mostly strangers, or his brother, who gets hit. Sometimes, he’ll poke people in the face, and sometimes, like at the park, he’ll swat or slap them. I, of course, feel horrible about what happened, and I completely understand why the dad was angry. We try to watch Charlie as closely as we can, but it only takes a second for him to elope or lash out.

What’s the solution, then?

Charlie deserves to be out, in the community, as much as other kiddos. Would the dad have been as angry at me if he had noticed Charlie’s disability? We need to continue to build awareness and understanding of disabilities, invisible and not, and make sure that caregivers get the help and support they need.

I posted the above on Instagram and Facebook autism page, The Autism Cafe, and I’m genuinely shocked by the amount of judgment and superiority I received from a number of your comments on my last post. Though I do not think my post was at all unclear, I’ll repeat some things from the original post in case I’m wrong about that, for clarity’s sake:

Autism and hitting conclusion

  • Autism is not an *excuse* for hitting other people. But it is a contributing factor. It’s one of the primary reasons. And, as I mentioned in the original post, another reason for this incident was that I wasn’t watching him closely enough. •The dad was rightfully upset.
  • We’ve been trying hard to stop the hitting behavior. It’s a focus at home and in ABA therapy.
  • Just because it worked to tell your particular child, “no, that hurts — keep your hands to yourself,” it doesn’t mean it will work with all autistic children. And in Charlie’s case, suggesting something like this, while understanding the severe language delays he lives with, shows little more than the ignorance from which this type of suggestion comes.
  • Unfortunately, Charlie often doesn’t understand the consequence of his actions, including comprehending a phrase like “hitting hurts.”
  • Considering the relative severity of the single incident we’re talking about here, Charlie still deserves the opportunity to go out, to play on the playground, and to do it in the presence of other kids. Remember, if you know one autistic person, you know one autistic person.

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