Self Stim Behaviors

Updated on March 26, 2008
L.J. asks from Eastlake, OH
15 answers

My daughter is three, she is a high energy little girl whom we adopted from Russia when she was 16 months old. She has this habit & behavior that I think is related to her sensory seeking issues, she hits her face fast & several times with her soft security duck while sucking or biting down on her fingers. She also makes a certain sound while doing it, like a dog whining. This is a daily thing, she will stop playing to do it. It seems to be a calming thing for her. She has been doing this for as long as I can remember. As soon as she became attached to her lovey. It's just really odd and while we don't stop her from doing it, I ask her to be gentle. She can be very rough on herself. She likes hard touch with a soft item.

She does attend an intergrated preschool as a special needs child, but is on target developmentally. Her issues are with sensory & social emotional.

I was just wondering if anyone has ever delt with self stimulating behaviors like this?

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So What Happened?

My daughter has been getting OT for about a year now, they really have not addressed this issue and now that she is involved with the school system, they seem to just focus on things regarding school- fine motor skills & paying attention. She is not doing this at school as far as I know.

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answers from Lafayette on

Try to find out some info on Asperger's Syndrome (it is in the Autism spectrum). I would also recommend reading THE OUT-OF-SYNC CHILD. My son also had sensory issues and this book really helped us to help him.


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answers from Dayton on

We adopted our oldest son when he was 20 mo. and he also has self stim behaviors. However, he has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and is very developmentally delayed. I read the first response and agree that OT services would be a good idea. If your daughter is enrolled in a special needs preschool, just ask the teacher about getting an evaluation done. For our son the stimming behavior seems to be calming for him as well. He is also in a special needs preschool and gets OT, PT, & speech services at school and through private therapists. A great place to recieve private therapy is at Abilities First in Middletown. It's definatly worth the drive!



answers from Columbus on

If she is already identified as having sensory issues, dealing with this should be part of her treatment plan. If she is not already in occupational therapy, seek it out right away. Likewise, if she is having social and emotional problems, she should be in therapy and the therapist should be aware of this and working on it now.

There are many different reasons for self stimulating behaviors, since this is not a developmental issue, you should be seeking profesional assistance from OT's and child psychiatrists-therapists. Early intervention provides that most gain.

Good luck!



answers from Cincinnati on

My son had a lot of problems with that. He was diagnosed with Autism not long ago.
But when he was younger (and even now) he liked to bump his head on things. Or he'd hit his head with his hands, or books, ect. He did a lot of self stimming things with toys, too.

If you have any questions let me know, I don't really know what to say, although if autism may be a concern for you (don't know if it is) the earlier you catch it, the better. :)

You can PM me if you want. :)



answers from Dayton on

I personally have not have had a lot of experience. I do know that if a child has a sensory problem, they will benefit from working with an OT (occupational therapist). Have you discussed this with her doctor? They may have suggestions or may be able to refer you to a doctor that specializes in sensory problems.


answers from Columbus on

Hi L.. I worked as an independent provider for children with special needs, before my children were born. One girl that I worked with had autism and had a similiar stim to what you describe that your daughter does (she would comfort herself by biting her hand in a certain spot, to the point of callouses.)
Not at all to say that your daughter has autism, but since you note that she has sensory issues, I wanted to give you a call to listen to that might change her life, as it did for this little boy with sensory issues and autism:
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If you're interested in learning more about what helped this child to no longer have his diagnoses of autism, then give me a Personal Message and I'd love to share more with you!
Wishing you and your family the Best!



answers from Columbus on

I do not have any experience with this, but I do have a suggestion. Are you involved with the Help Me Grow program through the state? If not contact them, they are a GREAT resource. A friend recently adopted a baby from China, and they have been a big help to her.
Good luck and God bless!



answers from Columbus on

I am a mom of a 20 month old daughter that I adopted from Guatemala when she was 5 months old. Though she is not experiencing these types of behavior, I would like to recommend that you talk with the psychologist at the International Adoption Clinic at Children's Hospital.

When we arrived home, I took my daughter to the International Adoption Clinic where they did a whole slew of tests for hearing, vision, blood, stool, physical development and other things. It was a series of 4 appointments. The last provider that she saw was a psychologist who specialized in internationally adopted kids and the issues that they may face down the line.

I would recommend that you see that person. The clinic is serchable online. It has been more than a year since we were there, so I don't remember the number, but you can also call Children's information. The person may answer the call "infectious disease." The two clinics share the same receptionist.

Good Luck.




answers from Toledo on

Has she been evaluated for Autism? That type of behavior sounds like an autistic behavior to me. I could be wrong, but it is just the first thing that comes to my mind when I read your post.



answers from Columbus on

I would have her tested for autism, my friends son did this and that was his diagnosis.He is now a very bright 17 year old boy but will be unable to function without adult supervision. He had special ed classes for years at the regular high school and grade schools.He is a very sweet and loving child but his Mom is his only provider.She said when she gets too old to care for him she will check both of them in to a retirement home.



answers from Cleveland on

Two things came to mind right away - 1st: what were her living arrangements in Russia (orphanage, foster home). If she has spent alot of time in an orphanage, that could cause some of the sensory issues since some of the time babies in overseas orphanages do not receive enough "hands on" care. I have worked with preschool children who were adopted from Russia & while they didn't have the degree of issues you are talking about, they did have some sensory issues. The 2nd thing that came to mind about the self-stim behaviors is possible Autism. Are there any other behaviors that might be typical behaviors for autism? Ask her teachers to observe for you & take notes. You also have the right to request further testing/assessment. Good Luck!



answers from Indianapolis on

I saw similar things to this when I taught preschool. She may have "sensory integration disfunction" which means she processes sensory stimulation differently. Some kids with this get overwhelmed by a normal amount of stimulation and some kids crave additional stimulation, so do things like you dicussed that your daughter does. (Kids can have sensory problems in the tactile (liked your daughter might, it sounds like), auditory or vestibular areas.) Seek the help of an occupational therapist! They can do wonders with therapy for kids with sensory integration disfunction.



answers from Columbus on


During the enrollment process for the preschool, make sure that you ask for an Occupational Therapy (OT) assessment due to stimulation issues. Sensory integration and a therapeutic "sensory diet" may be helpful for your little girl.



answers from Fort Wayne on

I don't know if you have had her tested for autism but it might not be a bad idea. Sensory issues are often a by product of autism as are social issues. There is a great deal of treatment out there that may be of assistance.
Anyway, an OT (occupational therapist) should give you some insight. Push the teachers to recommend therapy.

Good Luck and I hope this helps.



answers from Indianapolis on

We had guardianship of my cousin and his sister for 5 years. He was almost three when we got them and almost eight when he went back to his mom. He had a thing that he did, and probably still does to this day. It was that he would be sitting in a soft chair or in his carseat, and would start rocking back and forth, and not gently either, almost like banging himself back and forth. The reason he did this, we are told, is that he didn't get something when he was little to make him feel secure, so he adapted that to try to accomplish whatever it was that he was lacking. It probably stems from some sort of neglect from before you got her. Hopefully she'll just grow out of it. His kind of subsided a little, where he would do it at night when he layed in his bed, laying on his stomach and banging his head on his pillow, and we would try to talk to him about it and try to get him to stop. Like you, we thought it alarming. Maybe when she starts doing it, try to comfort her in some other way. We never did find an answer to his. Good luck!

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