Causes of Behavior Problems in Children With Autism

Help for our childrenSearching for causes of behavior problems in our children is where we can begin toward the goal of helping our kids cope with and perhaps even fix their issues.

Learning the causes of behavior problems is essential to either coping with or eliminating the misbehavior. Here we reveal physical or medical issues that could be the culprit.

Once you know why your child is misbehaving, you can be in a much better position of dealing with it effectively.

IMPORTANT:  Before we go any further, please see the disclaimer at the end of this page.

So why will knowing the causes of behavior problems in your child enable to you find the right solution?

Because if you apply normal discipline techniques to a behavior disorder that is caused by a physical problem, the discipline will very likely be ineffective. 

For example, if a child is having meltdowns and temper tantrums caused by a severe reaction to a food she is allergic to, any discipline Mom and Dad apply will not only be ineffective but can be likely to increase her suffering. The solution in that case would be to eliminate the offending food from her diet.

On the other hand, if you try a number of physical and other interventions such as changing the diet and that doesn’t work, it may be that your child simply needs discipline for her disobedience.

Finding the reason for your child’s behavior problems can be challenging, but it is possible. It just takes a bit of detective work on your part, including a lot of observation and perhaps even research.

But I’m here to help. Our family has seen our share of behavior challenges, so hopefully our experiences can benefit you today.

Through all our troubles, we have found that children with autism can exhibit behavior problems for a number of reasons. In this article, we’ll focus on possible physical or medical reasons for misbehavior.

Some of the causes of behavior problems can include..


Food Allergies or Food Sensitivities

As I mentioned earlier in this article, Susie could be having meltdowns because she is allergic to something she ate.

Or she could be having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) attacks because of a food allergy.

If you notice your child having a meltdown immediately after she drank eggnog, she may be allergic to dairy, eggs or something else in the beverage. 

Allergies involve the immune system and can sometimes be serious or even life-threatening.

A food sensitivity is usually less serious and often involves digestive issues.

if you suspect a food allergy or food intolerance may be among the causes of behavior problems in your child, I highly recommend you schedule a visit to your child’s doctor to have her tested. There are separate tests for food allergies and food sensitivities.


Chemical Allergies or Sensitivities

Some children are allergic to laundry soaps and other harsh cleaners. You can experiment by switching to natural cleaners to see if the change helps your child.

Some children have allergies or sensitivities to chemicals.

These chemicals can include cleaners, building materials, or other substances such as gasoline.

One child I know (I’ll call her Mary) is extremely sensitive to gasoline fumes. She has been known to pinch herself, hit herself and flail about frantically when exposed to the toxic chemical.

Others may experience Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) attacks when exposed to toxic chemicals such as paints, solvents, etc.

If you feel you need help determining if your child has one or more chemical sensitivities, your doctor or practitioner can help you figure this out.

You can also find out a lot by simply observing your child’s reactions when exposed to these chemicals.

Once you know what is causing your child’s reactions, it may simply be a matter of reducing her exposure to these substances.

For example, if you are at a gas station and your child is allergic to gasoline fumes, you may find that you have to keep the car windows rolled up until you leave the gas station.

Some children are allergic to regular laundry detergent and have reactions even when sitting in a room full of other people because of the soap people use to wash their clothes.

I personally like the Ecos and Seventh Generation brands of laundry detergent but there are other good brands out there. I recommend reading the labels to be sure the soap contains all natural ingredients.

If your child is sensitive to harsh cleaners, try using natural cleaners such as Simple Green or even plain white vinegar. In addition to laundry detergent, Seventh Generation produces a whole series of various types of natural cleaners. 

Even if your child doesn’t appear to be sensitive to synthetic cleaners or chemicals, I would recommend that you consider switching to nontoxic cleaners anyway as it will only help your family’s health to keep toxic chemicals out of the home. I personally wouldn’t want to expose my family to toxic chemicals whether or not any of us had a chemical allergy or sensitivity.

You might also consider investigating to see if anything else in your home is among the causes of behavior problems in your child.

One of the members of our family was having a reaction to the carpet in our home. 

Carpets are known to contain a lot of toxins, and they are hard to clean. They often harbor mold, parasites and other uncleanliness. 

If you can, it’s a good idea to switch to a nontoxic flooring choice such as tile. 

Watch out for other possible contaminants such as flooring adhesives, wallpaper adhesives, paint, and particle board which can off-gas toxic fumes for years. 

The safest paint you can buy should be labeled nontoxic as well as zero voc (volatile organic compounds). Any paint that is only labeled as low voc or zero voc may still cause problems because some toxic chemicals may still be in the paint. Not all toxic chemicals are classified as vocs. So it’s best to be sure the label says “nontoxic.”

With that said, test any paint you plan to use in your home. Even if it is labeled nontoxic and zero voc, check a small amount to be sure your child doesn’t have a reaction before you paint an entire room with it. 

And even if the paint is nontoxic, keep the room well-ventilated while you paint and for a while after you are finished painting, especially if anyone in the family is chemically sensitive.

We’re now in the process of fixing up our home to sell. After we test a number of different building/repair materials, I’ll be able to give you a better idea of which products we have found to be the most tolerable for us.


Other Physical Causes of Behavior Problems

Food and chemical allergies and sensitivities are just the beginning when it comes to finding out what could be behind our children’s chronic behavior issues. There are a number of other possible culprits as well.

To find out more, click over to the next page where I complete our discussion of physical or medical reasons for misbehavior.

You can also check out this article adapted from The Autism Revolution by Martha Herbert, M.D., Ph.D., with Karen Weintraub which outlines causes of behavior problems as well as ways to cope with these challenges.


Disclaimer:   The information contained in this article and on this website is not medical advice and should not be used as a substitute for seeing your own or your child’s physician. You should always consult a medical doctor before considering any of the information on this website. It is highly recommended to visit a licensed physician regularly and follow his or her treatment plan for your child. If you have any specific questions about your child’s health, you should see his or her physician or other healthcare provider. If your think your child might have any type of physical or medical condition, you should get help from your healthcare provider immediately. You should never delay, discontinue or disregard the medical treatment or advice from your own or your child’s doctor as a result of anything contained on this website.


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