Thursday, September 8, 2011

Autistic self injury and seizures

People have a tendency to see self injury as the "victims own fault". I have heard this many times and it is in error in many cases. Self injury occurs for several reasons.

Some do it for a release of endorphins that can cancel out pain. Often these people are seriously depressed or suffering other mental conditions. The fact that they seek solace in self harm should not make it a matter of fault. They still need treatment and without it, will continue to self harm. It may not be as much of a "choice" as it looks.

In the autistic the lack of choice is especially true. Consider this paste from an article on

"Self-injurious behavior has also been associated with seizure activity in the frontal and temporal lobes (Gedye, 1989; Gedye, 1992). Behaviors often associated with seizure activity include: headbanging, slapping ears and/or head, hand-biting, chin hitting, scratching face or arms, and, in some cases, knee-to-face contact. Since this behavior is involuntary, some of these individuals seek some form of self-restraint (e.g., having their arms tied down). Seizures may begin, or are more noticeable, when the child reaches puberty, possibly due to hormonal changes in the body."

Mine started when I was six or seven years old. More to quote:

"Since seizure-induced, self-injurious behaviors are involuntary, one may not observe a relationship between the person's behavior and his/her environment. However, since stress can trigger a seizure, there may be a relationship between stressors in the environment and self-injury. This may include too much physical stimulation (e.g., lighting, noise) and/or social stimulation (e.g., reprimands, demands). Foods may also induce seizures (Rapp, 1991). If the behavior began or got worse during puberty, one may also consider the possibility of seizure activity. If seizures are suspected, it is recommended that the person have an EEG."

See the whole article HERE.

I am on medication that helps to keep my incidents in check. I am very careful to remove myself from stressful situations that may cause an incident and have a "cool down" area in my home for just such issues. I use a fan for cooling and a white noise effect. I rest until my system calms.

My son has suffered this as well. If upset enough, he will bite himself or head bang. It's important to intervene on this as much as you can and as soon as you can. Medications may be necessary.

The dangers of long term head banging and self injury are permanent damage to the brain, cranial nerves, or skin. Biting can cause blood exposure, bleeding, damage to hands and arms, and permanent scarring.

I have to say that head banging is probably the most dangerous because of brain injury possibilities. Not only that, but damage to cranial nerves alone can cause significant disability. If the person uses their fists for all those years they can permanently damage nerves in the hands and wrists from all the hitting as well.

I have permanent cranial nerve damage and I can't tell you how embarrassing it is to have to explain it to anyone. I do though, for the sake of education. I just wish, if they could have done anything for me in my child hood, that they could have helped me with that. They weren't diagnosing autism in my age range or geographic area for age range in my teen days. No one caught on.

So it's important that you catch on now, especially if your child is engaging in self damaging behavior. Find out why and get it treated. Don't let it disable them permanently.


Susan said...

What a wonderful post, I can show this to the Doubting Thomases at my son's school. At the moment I feel like banging my own head against the wall (no pun intended) because the school doesn't see this behaviour as injurious! I cringe when he throws himself against as wall at great speed or bites his hand until the blood flows. Susan

David Wilde said...

Thanks for your comment and I wish you all the best of luck. Sometimes it's really hard to get through to the professionals.