Repetitive hand movements

by Zubair
(Abu Dhabi UAE)

My son has autism spectrum disorder. He repeatedly strikes over his chin and teeth. He uses his one/ or both hands(fingers) and any metal or plastic object for this purpose.

These movements are more vigorous when he is angry and playing and slower and more gentle while coloring and writing.

Please guide us how to get rid of these.


Before I give you some ideas, I am wondering a few things... some further information would be helpful to me.

Is your son currently in Occupational Therapy? If yes... how often? Privately or in school? What activities do they do with him, what skills or behaviors are they working on? Are they specifically addressing his sensory needs? If so, what in particular, and how? Has he always exhibited this behavior? Has anything been done to address it in the past? Has he/did he show any improvement at any point? Has it gotten worse over time? How old is he? Is he a sensory seeker or avoider, or both?

The reason I ask all of these questions is that the answers will help me better understand why he may be doing this behavior, who can help him and how - specifically.

What he is doing are self-stimulating behaviors. These are a frequent "coping" mechanism

for many individuals with Autism. They can swerve multiple purposes. Most commonly they are a way of seeking proprioceptive, tactile, vestibular, visual, oral, or auditory input. The self-stimulating behavior is done as a way of calming and regulating his nervous system. In your son's case, it may be a combination of several senses that he is trying to satisfy a craving for. As he does the "striking" behavior, he is soothed. For a more in-depth explanation, please read... Hair Pulling And Other Self-Stimulating Behaviors, by Michelle Morris.

The best things you can do to address this and to decrease the frequency or intensity, is to address the underlying sensory issues. This will be done through:

- a good sensory based Occupational Therapy treatment program (usually done privately vs. school based)

- following a consistent, well planned, individualized sensory diet which includes a lot of proprioceptive and heavy work activities

- talk to his OT (if he has one... I hope he does) about trying a weighted vest or wrist weights to give him some additional calming proprioceptive feedback.

- oral/facial input, feedback, massage (see oral motor section on
treatment activities page

Start with these suggestions and information. Then, I can hopefully help you further if you answer my multitude ;0) of questions.

Take good care.

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Feb 02, 2010
6 month old rapid hand movement
by: Anonymous

Recently, my grandson had rapid hand movement. His fingers move separately. Sometime drawn close to his palm while others are in motion. It's like playing a piano scale rapidly. This doesn't happen all of the time and so far, I can't figure out a trigger for this movement. It's almost like he's very nervous but just in the hands. Does anyone have any input as to what is happening?

Dec 26, 2009
by: Zubair

10 mnth baby usually is too young an age to comment for autism symptoms, as usually noticeable features come later on at about 3-5 yrs of age or at the beginning of schooling.

But I can recall some abnormal hand movements in my son at very young age as sometimes these compulsive movements will not let him sleep at night and i had to hold his hands till the time he was asleep.

I think if the hand movements are not too often and the eye contact of your grand child is good then no need to worry.

Nov 26, 2009
repetitive hand movement
by: Nana

My grandson is 10 months old. He has been doing this thing with his left hand. It seems he is frustrated when he does it and it seems to be becoming very strong.He is a normal baby and a good one at that. But my daughter is starting to worry and tonite I noticed he was doing this funny thing with his hand and fingers. Is this cause for worry?

Oct 16, 2008
Hand movement by infant
by: Zubair

I can recall my son that he was having difficulty in sleeping he would be somewhat more restless than my other children making hand movements etc even when he was about 2-3 mnth old. I kept wondering about it but was never sure what actually was happening. Otherwise he was growing and achieving normal milestones till about the age of 3 yrs.

As for your son 3 month I think it would be too early to comment anything.

An update on my son`s condition. He is improving regarding his abilities to learn . He can copy simple drawings and even redraw them without revision the next day. But the repetitive movements of hand (especially hitting the teeth is still there.


Oct 16, 2008
Hand movement in an infant
by: Anonymous

My son is almost 3 months old and he does this thing with his left hand. It is like a clawing (like a cat kneads) and he does it over and over. I am wondering if this could be an early sign of autism? Or is this just a normal infant hand movement? Thanks for any insight.

Jan 31, 2008
by: Zubair

Thanks for the detailed answer. I have gone through the shortcuts and have found a lot of useful information that will certainly help us.

My son is about 9.5 yr old. He is attending a rehabilitation centre for special children and also once/week sessions with an occupational therapist in a hospital. They both are working jointly and nowadays he is having Sensory integration Therapy. As per the OT he is a sensory seeker as he like more physically strenuous exercises. The OT is working on deep pressure senses. He is showing some improvement in his general behaviour but the hand movements have always been there and are continuing till now.

I would thank you again for the guidance provided to me.

Take care.

Ok, given your further information, then I think you are doing all the right things and since he is in sensory integrative therapy they should be able to address and diminish this behavior with some of the things I suggested (and others). I would work with them, and try some of the things I suggested as well. You are in good hands! They should be able to help!! Let me know if you need anything further.

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