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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I control hyperactivity in my Autistic son?

    My son is 7 years old. He is autistic and his language development is very poor. But he never was hyperactive all these years. He goes to an autism school and was doing well. But recently he has become hyperactive. He screams and cries for no reason for more than 10 mts or sometimes even half an hour. He keeps pacing up and down the house all the time. Sometimes climbs up the couch and steps down and keeps repeating it for hours. He had injury in his scrotum recently and the crying spell started with that incident. Now the injury is all healed. But the crying and screaming and other things still continues. We have done all other tests on him and there is absolutely nothing physically wrong with him.
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    Autism Victoria, trading as Amaze, is a member-based not-for-profit organisation and is the peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in the state of Victoria. View Profile

    It is not unusual to see changes in behaviour of children with autism following a traumatic event or injury.  Even after an injury has healed, the behaviours that developed at that time may continue if your child is seeking a learned response from you for example, comfort and attention. All behaviours are a form of communication. The repetitive behaviours you describe could be self-soothing actions that give him comfort and control. Keep a record of when these behaviours occur to help determine the cause(s); record what happened directly before the behaviour and your response to the behaviour.

    For greater success it is important when trying to change or remove negative behaviours that you model what the replacement behaviour should be (choose something that may offer the same benefits to him but that are more acceptable), for example replace climbing on the couch with something else physical like climbing up and down a ladder. Using visual symbols and a timetable or schedule would be helpful when introducing these changes. Also remember to give lots of positive attention at times when his behaviour is good.

    Children who are hyperactive benefit from scheduled and regular physical activity; this can prevent  or at least lessen hyperactivity in many children. Include a range of physical activities that your son enjoys at scheduled times during the day. Your son could be taught how to ask for a physical activity when he feels upset or ‘hyperactive’. Often choosing from a board of symbols (with pictures of the activities) is easier for children when they are upset even if their verbal skills are good.

    A psychologist or occupational therapist with autism experience would be able to help you with specific strategies and resources. You could access the Medicare scheme, Chronic Disease Management Plan, to get a rebate for the cost of seeing such professionals. See your GP for more information on this.

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