There are many forms of self injurious behaviour
(SIB). C has tried lots over the years, biting, scratching, pinching, eye poking, hair pulling to name a few but non have worked so well for him as banging his head.
Not much research has been done into head banging – I know I have been looking for over 21 years! But we do hear of the accumulative affects it can have on boxers
and music head
bangers.20% of babies
head bang the majority grow out of it. C didn’t as for him it serves a number of purposes. Expressing feelings. Communicating a need - gaining control because of the actions of others, something in his environment, to feel grounded, distraction from sensory pain, distraction from a health pain, emotional pain, lack of self-esteem, self-confidence, expressing fear, frustration, despair, anxiety, anxiety exposure
, pressure, avoidance, wanting something, releasing adrenalin or endorphins (feels good!). Etc. C of course is a person first and not a collection of behaviours/labels.
I realised very early on that because of my mother’s instinct to protect my child from pain I would give into C’s SIB and other challenging stuff rather than trying to teach him other coping strategies/ways to communicate. At the time it was easier – for ME
. But I realised long term this was not the right route to take for C
. In those days local SLD schools did not have enough knowledge, so I fought hard to get C into a specialist school. I am very glad I did as over the years with consistency, understanding and hard work C has made huge strides and we don’t see many of his childhood behaviours now.
Because head banging for C covers so much it is not always easy to know what he is trying to tell you. And its not for lack of him trying. All behaviour is for a reason.
It’s a coping strategy a way of communicating, but C does rely on others to work it out and then sort it out. And because we don’t always get it right as we literally don’t know what he’s trying to tell us ‘we’ end up shaping his behaviour. "Suit you, sir?"
As C has become older, bigger stronger so his need to find hard surfaces to hit his head on has increased. Possibly as his skull has thickened where he hits it? Or possibly the sensory pain from his environment has increased for him? Or he is less tolerant as to the speed we can work out what he’s saying? I don’t know.
Doors are not hard enough – they give fire regs
C won’t wear a helmet. He cuts his head open on the edges of door frames - but won’t let anyone cut his nails. Shows how diverse sensory issues can be.
So we need to continue working together on helping C learn other coping strategies, choices and ways to communicate his needs. C is fortunate he has a team to help him and I am a cog in 'Team C'. ( Carers are now getting better recognition as expert care partners
as we have historical holistic knowledge) We continue building C’s
community and our understanding.