Autism Occupational Therapy
Resource Toolkit

Moving Away from ‘Managing Behaviours’ to Understanding the Many Causes of Behaviours Instead

Why Understand the Causes of Behaviour?

“Self injury can be a complex term. We tend to think of it as just one thing, an action with intent to cause harm, but that’s not always the case. And because of this, we need to make sure that our responses to self-injurious behaviour is tailored to each person and each individual case. There may be many reasons why an individual acts in a self-injurious way, whether that’s seeking sensory information, whether that’s attempting to remove anxiety or express frustration, especially if someone is unable to communicate their needs, we may see self-injurious behaviour coming up more frequently ” – Elsbeth Dodman

This section contains resources that explore some of the reasonings behind challenging behaviours of autistic individuals including self-injurious behaviours. 

Autistic advocate Elsbeth explains self-injurious behaviour in autism and shares her  experiences. 

Podcast by the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health with Dr. Ann Ozsivadijan, Clinical Psychologist and Dr. Penny Williams, Speech and Language Pathologist focusing on self harm & self-injurious behaviour and autistic individuals. Higher prevalence of self harm/SIB in autistic individuals. Explores the drivers behind self harm and self injurious behaviours.

In this episode of the Real OTs of Early Intervention, Danielle Delorenzo, Amirra Johnson and Sarah Putt discuss self-injurious behaviours (SIBs). They describe SIBs (e.g. headbanging, self-hitting) and address the stigma around SIBs. Danielle shares her personal and professional experience with SIBs. They discuss ways to empower and support families in managing SIBs.

This paper in Brain Sciences Journal explores self-injurious behaviour in individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities (ID), specifically looking at pain reactivity and sensory processing. There is a higher prevalence of SIBs in autistic individuals with ID than ID alone.The paper outlines different models of SIB, looks at risks factors for SIBs and offers clinical recommendations.

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