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Autism news: Why Do Many Children Act Out? Behavior Problems Part 6
January 29, 2020

Does this type of incident sound familiar to you?

“No, Mark! No!” cried his older brother. Mom tried to calm “Mark” down as quickly as possible.

Mark was having another meltdown right after they parked in front of a grocery store. Mom had planned to run into the store for just a couple of things.

Earlier, when they had pulled into the parking lot, his brother noticed that something smelled funny, and he told his mother about it.

Mom later realized she should have listened to him because she knew Mark had severe chemical allergies that could send him into a rage. The reaction was so severe that Mark began hitting himself and pinching his own neck in frustration, leaving several red blood blister streaks on his neck.

Fortunately, those blood blisters healed fairly quickly. But after that incident, Mom was more careful about where she parked the car.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you are not alone. Self-injurious and other severe behaviors are quite common among children with autism. And many parents are over-burdened with coping with it, wishing they could get to the root of the problem.

What many parents may not know is that many of these behaviors are caused by physical or medical problems.

It’s also true that Sensory Processing Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can cause behavior issues. But even these conditions may, for many children, be caused by a medical problem.

The more I research this subject, the more experts I find who have come to this same conclusion, including our own family doctor.

I say all this because if your family deals with behavior issues regularly, getting to the root of the problem makes all the difference. And it helps tremendously to know that Johnny isn’t just trying to bother everyone else in the family. He isn’t acting out on purpose.

In her book, Naturally Recovering Autism, Karen Thomas, a board certified craniosacral therapist addresses this issue, but specifically regarding Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD):

“My greatest concern is that parents will be unable to understand that it is not that their children will not act appropriately or do what they are asked, but that their children cannot. Children with sensory processing issues, or unregulated neurological functioning, are often seen as defiant. They are actually incapable of changing their behavior due to a disorganized brain. Our society has programmed us to believe it is just about behavior. These children are thought of as lazy or disrespectful…

Many of the ordinary, daily tasks or responses we take for granted are extremely challenging for those with sensory processing disorders.”

The same could be said for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), although that condition is quite different from Sensory Processing Disorder. I’ll have more to say about OCD in a future message.

But for now, I’ll just say that for many plagued with OCD, it’s like living in a nightmare where they feel compelled to do the very thing that they don’t want to do or that they are afraid of doing.

SPD, OCD, allergies, and other difficult medical conditions in general are quite common among children with autism. And some kids like Mark act out in frustration because they don’t know what to do with themselves when they’re having an allergic reaction.

My heart goes out to these kids because many of them suffer silently.

For our family it has made all the difference in the world to have a better understanding of what our child has had to endure.

Sure, it’s frustrating and exhausting to have to deal with the behavior outbursts. But trust me when I say that, as hard as it is for us as parents to cope with, our kids are having a much more difficult time.

As Orhan Pamuk has said, “How much can we ever know about the love and pain in another heart? How much can we hope to understand those who have suffered deeper anguish, greater deprivation, and more crushing disappointments than we ourselves have known?

Warm Regards,

Kay Donato

P. S. I will often see my own son go from “rude” and “defiant” to his usual sweet, innocent, fun-loving smile minutes after giving him a teaspoon or two of dulse seaweed. For a list of everyday items in your kitchen that might help calm your child during a meltdown, see the back issue of this newsletter entitled, “This could halt a behavior incident…Behavior Problems Part 3.”

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