Occupational Therapy

Does Hand Flapping Mean My Child Has Autism?

Self-stimulatory behaviors or “stimming” are commonplace in autistic kids or those with a sensory processing disorder. But, even a typically-developing child may display these types of behaviors as well. And, even if you notice your child hand flapping or showing other types of these behaviors, it isn’t a definite indication your child has autism.

These behaviors may cause you concern and have you worrying there is something wrong with your child. Hand flapping is a good example of a typical “red flag” parents get concerned over. However, there are various reasons behind this behavior other than Autism such as:

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Fidgeting
  • Excitement
  • Habitual behavior
  • High arousal level/engine level
  • Decreased body awareness (child’s unaware he’s even doing it)

With that said, hand flapping is among the irregular, repetitive Autism actions along with rocking or spinning or walking on the toes that parent’s notice in their child at an early age. Hand flapping could be a warning sign along with:

  • Unusual preoccupations
  • Disinterest in people
  • Difficulty understanding social cues
  • Odd speech patterns
  • Difficulty controlling emotions

If your child’s hand flapping intensifies or continues several months or more, they may require evaluation from a specialist like a pediatric occupational therapist.

You may wish to get your child professional help since engaging in hand flapping or other self-stimulatory behaviors can cause your child unnecessary side effects. They may accidentally scratch or bite themselves. They may bring on undue attention from others making it hard for them to make friends or engage in social interactions. Some behaviors could even interfere with their education. While these behaviors aren’t necessarily a bad thing by themselves, the consequences of their side effects can be hard for your child to deal with.

There is greater instability of Autism diagnoses before children turn three years old though. But you’ll still want to take note of all behaviors contributing to your concerns and consult with your child’s pediatrician and/or an Autism specialist.

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