Friday, August 8, 2008

Hard to Watch - Hard to Understand

If you have a child who engages in self-injurious behavior, you know how terribly upsetting it can be. Watching a child slam their fist into their head, pick at their gums or fingers until they bleed, or even bite themselves and break the skin is something no one should have to endure. But many of you know that this is common behavior for a child with significant disabilities.

My experience with the school system and with many medical professionals is that they would rather try to control the self-injury with medication - and sometimes that is really strong medication with significant side effects. For years I have fought my school system to assist me in finding the reasons for Ashley's self-injurious behavior, and even though they agree to do their version of a functional behavior assessment, the result has usually been restraint. And that restraint does nothing but increase Ashley's frustration which causes the self-injurious behaviors to increase.

For years, I have insisted that the behaviors were a direct result of lack of communication. The school system and many of the doctors scoffed at that idea. Yet, when Ashley did finally get a teacher who believed in her, and a school setting that was appropriate, the behaviors all but stopped.

With each new school year, with each new school placement, with each new teacher - I wonder if the behaviors will resurface. If they do, my campaign to educate the educators will again kick into high gear. And last night, I found one of the best articles on self-injurious behaviors I have ever read.

Written by a gentleman who is autistic, the article on stopping self-injurious behavior is excellent. I urge all parents and educators to take just a few moments to read the article I have linked to below. I promise you will come away with a much better understanding and approach.

Stopping Self-Injurious Behavior

1 comment:

Candice said...

Thank you for sharing that blog. Our first adopted child self-injures. It was worse when she first came into our home and now only happens in high-stress times (test times, high pressure at school, etc). I think it was just a way of controlling her environment and also she would get attention for it because she would be bleeding, so I am sure that there was some benefit to her for the attention. She normally picks at herself until she is bleeding, but has also cut her hair and stabbed herself with scissors and pencils. When it is just starting, she will also write on herself and we have recognized this as a beginning to this behavior and have been able to intervene and control it sometimes. It is very hard to watch your child go through something like that and feel like there is nothing that you can do to help.

I pray that this will be a better year for you and that you can educate others as you do so well.