18 answers

Hand Flapping

My daughter is almost 2 1/2 years old. She is so bright and is way ahead of what is typical cognitive development for her age. But here is what worries me. She has a strong tendency to flap her hands. It happens when she gets hurt, while she is eating, and during any times of stress. I work with children that have Autism and Autism related disorders, so the hand flapping is very common to me. She doen not do it right in front of her face, like many of the kiddos that I work with do, but more out to the side in the air (kinda looks likes she's trying to fly). I don't think that I am worried that my daughter is on the Autism spectrum, I was just wondering if any other moms have children that also do this kind of movement with their hands. She also swings her legs a lot, but that doesn't bother me as much as the hand flapping does. Thanks!!

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My 3 1/2 year old son has PDD NOS - Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified. This is on the autistic spectrum. I noticed that he was not talking, making eye contact, doing repetitive things when he was 2. He does do some hand flapping when he is mad or excited about something. I started with the local AEA office. They came to my house and observed and evaluated him. They started working with him about once a week. He is very smart as well, he just cannot express everything in a manner that WE know what he is saying! They suggested that he be evaluated for autism (which I had a gut feeling about) and gave me suggestions on where to take him. We went to the University of Iowa to do this. I do know that there are places in Omaha that are great too. I would start with the AEA. They were so nice and easy to talk to.

Hope this helps! Good luck!

My son did that for the longest time. Especially when he was told no and started a tantrum. It used to drive me up the wall when he did it! I thought that was almost worse than screaming. He eventually grew out of it and no longer does it. It's probably just something that she does when she's frustrated. She will probably grow out of it too. Good luck!!

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My son was also a hand-flapper at that age. Mostly when he was excited or sometimes when stressed. I really wasn't too worried about it but because of some speech issues his ECFE teacher wanted him evaluated at age 2 1/2. Long story short, the OT tried to tell us he had some sensory issues but the rest of the evaluators concluded he was just very bright and very verbal - still is. He outgrew the hand flapping and is thriving in kindergarten. Of course if you are really concerned, see an OT or your pediatrician. But if things are fine otherwise, I'd just let it go and not make a big deal about it. If you stop paying attention to it, one day you'll realize she doesn't even do it anymore.

I have an 8 year old son who does odd things with his hands when he is excited. My husband used to do that when he was little, so I think that is were my son got it from. I wouldn't worry about it too much, it is probably just a funny little quirk she will eventually outgrow.

My 3 1/2 year old son has PDD NOS - Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified. This is on the autistic spectrum. I noticed that he was not talking, making eye contact, doing repetitive things when he was 2. He does do some hand flapping when he is mad or excited about something. I started with the local AEA office. They came to my house and observed and evaluated him. They started working with him about once a week. He is very smart as well, he just cannot express everything in a manner that WE know what he is saying! They suggested that he be evaluated for autism (which I had a gut feeling about) and gave me suggestions on where to take him. We went to the University of Iowa to do this. I do know that there are places in Omaha that are great too. I would start with the AEA. They were so nice and easy to talk to.

Hope this helps! Good luck!

I have a 22-month old son who does what sounds like similar hand-flapping. He does this when he's excited and happy. His father apparently did the same thing. I was a little nervous about since he has speech/language delays, but he is so social and does not exhibit anything that makes the therapists think autism. Does your daughter make any verbalizations when she does the hand flapping? Is her doctor concerned about it?

My son (now 13 years old) flapped his hands too. He started as a baby, and did it mostly when excited. He also liked spinning objects, so I was a little concerned. He also jumped up and down a lot in excitement - literally jumping for joy. And he was a high energy little boy. He was ahead in all of the milestones, (except walking - not until 15 months!). He always had excellent eye contact.

Now, at 13, he is very smart, and a straight A student in school. He is very social, and relates well with others. He has no problems with focusing or sitting still when he needs to. I think the hand flapping gradually went away by the age of 5 or 6, but he still will jump up and down now and then (like when playing RISK or talking about an interest).
The only difference I see in him is his intensity - he does become rather obsessed with his interests: toilets at age 2, vacuums at age 3, lawn mowers at age 4, computers at 9, the current passion is cell phones. He knows everything about the subject. But he is happy and successful in his life, so I leave it at that.

My son did that for the longest time. Especially when he was told no and started a tantrum. It used to drive me up the wall when he did it! I thought that was almost worse than screaming. He eventually grew out of it and no longer does it. It's probably just something that she does when she's frustrated. She will probably grow out of it too. Good luck!!

Hello,

I have been working with children who have Autism for several years. They do not always flat in front of there face. She may have Aspberger syndrom a form of Autism. It may benificial to you to ask your doctor. It sounds to me as if those are Autism ticks. I have worked with very high funtioning autistic children and some very low children. They all are very special in there way.

J.

I just watched a VERY interesting show in Autism that was on HBO the other day. I believe the autism term would be called "Stimming". Alot of autistic children stimulate themselves in many ways, the typlical is the hand flapping...but some do other movements of stimulation. I'd do some research about that first. Most likely it's not Autism, because usually children with autism show other more obvious signs, like staring into space and losing the ability to form words and loss of words, etc. Do some research on your own.

Does she go to work with you at all to see this as common behavior from the other kids? If so it could be that she's learned this as a way to cope from them. If not, hmmm. At least you're familiar with autism to know what to look for. Maybe gently holding her hands when she starts and asking her to use her words to tell you what's the matter would help.

Don't worry about it, I did the same thing when I was frustrated as a child, my dad called me a little bird! I outgrew it and have had no form of autism or other learning disability. Children just express their frustrations in different ways. If there are other signs that bother you then of course get her evaluated, but it sounds to me from your description that she is perfectly normal. I hope this helps to relieve some worry!

My daughter does this too! She's the same age and also way ahead of the bar for her age. I thought about it and it concerned me a little bit but since she's so smart and very verbal I didn't think it was going to be a problem. She does the leg swinging thing too. Maybe they just have a lot of energy!

Hello B.,

Of course if you are very concerned about this you should talk to your daughter's doctor. But, I smiled when I read your account, because my daughter did the same thing. She started flying about the time she started sitting up. She did this when she was excited, giggling, frustrated, eating, or playing in a jumpy seat. She is a happy, healthy 4 1/2 now and is no longer flying. I can't tell you exactly when she stopped this, but in her 3yr birthday video she was still doing it as we sang HB, so it was probably shortly after that when she stopped. My daughter is also very active and swings her legs almost constantly if they are dangling. But now as a 4 1/2 year old she is able to sit still and concentrate on her "work" when she needs or wants to. If you don't feel a dr visit is in order, I'm sure she will grow out of it as she develops other ways of expressing herself and expending her energies.

Good luck!
Chris

It could be a normal behavior and just her way of showing that she is excited/upset, etc. But if you are concerned you could seek out an occupational therapy evaluation. Ask your doctor for a referral for a pediatric OT eval (early intervention)..many times each county has their own therapists. OT's assess and work with sensory integration diffculties. (I'm not saying that your daughter has sensory integration/regulation difficulties..only letting you know that an OT would be a great person to assess this). Maybe she's totally fine and they could just give you suggestions to help her through her day..such as give her alternative behaviors when she is excited, etc. Or if it is affecting her more than that..they would be able to provide services. Good luck!

B.,

I don't want this to sound like I am bragging or any thing like that. I am just stating facts! I myself was and still am a hand flapper. I don't even know that I am doing it until someone points it out. The times that I seem to do it are times of high emotion. By this I mean anything from excitement, great happiness, stress, etc. I also have a higher that average IQ. In my opinion it may just be a way of coping for your daughter as it is for me. I see it that same as biting your finger nails, twirling your hair or habits such as these.

I hope this helps

Blessings To you
S. Blevons
Langlade Co. WI.
www.lhdoula-service.com.



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Most people would suggest "The Out of Sync Child" which you are probably familiar with if work with Autistic children. I, personally like "Raising a Sensory Smart Child." My son has the hand flapping. He's always been overly excitable. Everyone would say, "Oh, he's just a boy." And I would say, "No, it's more than that. He's Kyle."

Over the summer I talked to a parent who recognized his behaviors as being on the Autism spectrum. I immediately called and was put on the waiting list for OT at an office very near our house. I made an appointment with our pediatrician, and she refused to give us a referral. My son had just turned 6, was an older Kindergartener because the school district suggested Kindergarten Prep because of his "focus issues."

Today, he attends OT weekly, we are in the process of getting an IEP in place at school for "Autism Spectrum." He is extremely bright and highly functional, which, I believe, is why he was diagnosed so late, but we are doing what we need to do now to make him successful in school.

The short answer, do what you feel you need to do for your child. Don't except no for an answer if you feel there is a problem. and if it isn't a problem, don't worry about it.

My 3 year old son does that every time he's excited about something or when he's really happy. He flaps his hands and wiggles his feet. He's done it since he realized he had hands and feet. I'm not worried about him being autistic at all. Unless your daughter shows other symptoms of Autism, I wouldn't worry about her, either.

My daughter is 5 1/2 now and seems just fine. But, when she was little my mom always said she had "butterfly hands" because they were always fluttering.

My son has Aspergers and he flaps his hands out to the side like your daughter. Take her to the Frazer center and have her tested. It might not be Aspergers, it might not be anything... but then you will know for sure and have the information you need to help your daughter. My son is a very well behaved boy and he is extremely smart. Aspergers is not always obvious.

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