Tom has some behaviors that we are trying to reduce. When he is bored or frustrated he will hit himself in the head; not the type of behavior that is acceptable in society and nothing we want to see continue.
Below you see Tom at a crowded event. Can you image how loud and unnerving that would be if you were a small child and could not see? It makes me recognise how much trust Tom has in us.
When Tom is comfortable and engaged he is more ready to participate and interact.
Here he had to wait until it was time for the ceremony to begin and then sit and listen until it was time for him to participate in the ceremony. That is a lot for any child. But many things made it possible for him to behave and even enjoy this experience. First, he had practiced his ceremony duties several times so he was familiar with what was expected of him and with the area. He was with trusted adults, his family and teachers. I think knowing what to expect had a lot to do with his comfort level.
When Tom hits himself I try to not make a big deal of it and instead re-direct him. Sometimes calling attention to behaviors actually reinforces them because the child realizes that this behavior is creating a strong reaction. But sometimes, you are stressed and you have had a long day, you yell "STOP IT!" We have all been there, but I think it helps to be mindful of other approaches.
For example, Tom hates to be buckled into a carseat and the ride to school is 20-30 minutes long depending on traffic. He spends his time strugging against the straps of his carseat and then he sometimes hits himself when he gets frustrated. I can hardly pull over in the middle of traffic and hold his hands down. I have to keep driving and stay calm.
I turn off his music and say, "We don't hit. No music if you hit. Do you want me to turn on the music again?" He calms down as soon as the music stops and says, "Yes," so I will turn his music back on. Then we continue on our merry way. Sometimes I have to turn the music off twice per trip but I think it works better than me yelling, which usually only makes things worse.
The article stresses that we focus on what is going on around the child. In this case, he was both confined and bored in his carseat. The body craves stimulation and since Tom doesn't get visual stimulation he must seek it out in other ways. He is usually in constant motion so being tied down in a carset is just awful for him. I keep a bunch of small hand-held toys in the car for him and we play his music. I'm going to be on the look out for more hand-held toys and fidget items for the car. I think ours are getting stale.
The benefit of the approach described in this article is that children begin to learn to self-regulate. And helping Tom learn to help himself is a skill worth exploring.