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Hand flapping
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Hand flapping

To anyone out there with autistic children, does anyone have any practical ways of getting my 8 year to stop the arm flapping? He's tall for his age and this makes him so much more noticable when he does it. He nearly knocked over a lady in the supermarket recently he was so into it! We have tried everything that any parent can, bribery, talking about why he does it etc. Nothing has worked.
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365714_tn?1292202708
Have you noticed any particular patterns, such as stress or anxiety causing more flapping?  I'm not an avid hand flapper, so I can't give you much advice if it is continuous flapping in any scenario. I just know I shake my arms and hands in a fast jerky motion when I get very stressed out and can't explain myself or if I am in panic mode and can't find something I need or think I need. Usually the motion is accompanied by a rather loud audible distressed scream of some sort.

In this case the arm shaking stops once I've calmed down and found the object that I was looking for, or the stress and anxiety got defused.
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365714_tn?1292202708
I'm just going to throw out an idea for consideration. I think chances are if an autistic someone is flapping their arms hard enough to almost knock someone over or hit them in some way, that it is most likely out of anxiety than anything else.

I think shaking arms and hands becomes a way of expressing anxiety or emotion.  Without knowing the "proper" (read: socially acceptable) way of expressing anxiety, someone goes to whatever works for them. It could be instinctive, I don't know.  Screaming works... Shaking an arm so hard that it feels like falling off may be another way. Same as biting ones arm and hitting ones head.

I think for me it helped to learn how to express myself.  Unfortunately I replace possible arm flinging with crying fits out in public... still not quite there yet.

IS there really a "proper" way to express anxiety at the peak of it when the adrenaline rush is flowing and it is either fight or flee?  Let me know please, I'm still working on that one...
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367831_tn?1284262544
Dos he flap shoelaces  or string or just his hands?  I know someone who will flap and wave string/shoelaces up and down.  I think that is a form of self-stim.
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Avatar_m_tn
The way our son explains the had flapping which is accompanied with whistles and tics, is that he has all of these characters in his head which he has to move with the handflapping as he cant "physically" move so he moves them by running from corner to corner of the room in a practical whirlwind! He has done this since he could walk. He does it almost constantly but it doesn't seem to be anxiety based, the way I explain it is that he is most comfortable in this, his own little world.
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365714_tn?1292202708
Interesting that you say he has characters in his head. So do I and I've always had some grouping of characters or another since age 5.  I never flapped my hands to make them real (as far as I can recall), but I recall doing other things such as drawing them, making cut outs and sticking them in some kind of airconditoner/heater vent in my 1st grade classroom.  The air conditioner would blow and it would "animate" the characters by making them flap. I found it amusing and it would make me smile and laugh, though it never evoked the same emotion from my teacher...  I'd sometimes act out my stories by riding my bike to places in a field nearby when I was older and lived in Appleton, WI.

For me I found talking aloud to myself as another way to bring the characters to life. (and a way to be picked on by outsiders as well)  Drawing picture books and making my parents write was another. When I learned to write by myself, I took to writing.  

That's how I make my characters "real". The creature in my avatar is one of my characters.  It may not be possible to eliminate the hand flapping right away, but I would certainly try to encourage him to write and draw the characters.  If he can't write, perhaps he can speak what he imagines them saying and you can write it down.
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Avatar_m_tn
He can write really well. I dont know if I said before but he is a great writer but the problem is getting him to stay still for long enough! The perpetual movement and flapping combined with talking to himslelf has gotten worse as he has gotten older. We were on holiday last year and he couldnt even bear to be in the pool for too long( in searing heat!) because it was taking time away from his imaginary games(as he calls them). He doesnt really watch TV( unusual for an 8 year old!) because he NEEDS to do his running up and down repeatedly. He is very cute and I say this not because he is my son and he can be quite social and talks to other people at times but I have become very worried because he is getting very "dependant" on his physical outlets ie the flapping and running and tics are getting worse and I dont know how to help because he just shuts me out.
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Avatar_n_tn
I have a 17 year old daughter.  When she was about 12 the flapping got a little out of hand.  We started a game called the statue game.  She loves praise and loves to win so it really worked.  Wherever we were I found something for her to hold on to..ie..the shopping basket, a purse, a counter, etc... then I would tell her to hold that for 5 min. If she did not let go I would praise her.  We have worked up to about 15-20 min.  I am lucky because I do not have to treat her for the accomplishment.  My exaggerated praise is enough for her!

Good Luck!!!
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365714_tn?1292202708
I did go through a period of time where I would go through some patterns of behavior, where I would be running around or doing something.  It wasn't character related though. One of them was whenever a certain door closed, I'd want to have one foot touching a rug.

I with some of those I had to outgrow...  It wasn't an easy process and hardly anyone could force me. It seemed mostly something I had to stop on my own.  With the rug, I could not break the behavior until my parents changed the rug, (because it was getting old, and stained). I decided to let the change break that behavior.

Perhaps someone with more useful advice will come along.  Otherwise it may be a process that he has to go through. I think what helped me was becoming aware that I was just embarrassing myself... My grandma took a photo of me in one of those self obsessive routines. grrr.  As far as talking aloud to myself, that stopped in public when someone made a rather rude comment about it and picked on me some.  I still may talk aloud to myself, but I learned not to do it out in public...
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325405_tn?1262293778
My daughter does not hand flap as often since she started sensory integration therapy.  She's 2, so I don't know what type of therapy for sensory integration they do for 8 year olds. I have sensory issues, and I don't think there's much you can do as an adult.  I don't know when the brain is set in its ways.  My daughter does flapping when she gets really excited, usually really happy to see people or when she runs down the hall (she love to run).  She does not do it as often anymore, but it still happens on occasion.  Other kids have said, "oh how cute" and immitating her, but I'm sure as she gets older, it will start to look less cute and they'll make fun.  I don't know if you're supposed to try to stop arm flapping or not... but heh, why not join in the fun?  Are we supposed to encourage the behavior?  Maybe that's not so a good idea.  But, I think it's a fun thing.  And our occupational therapist is always saying we shoudl turn sensory play into social sensory play.  :)  Social arm flapping... maybe you can get him to control how he flaps that way?  Oh, man, I'm just throwing out stuff.  It's different with a 2 year old than an 8 year old.  When I arm flap with my daughter, I get lots of eye contact with her.  But, with the sensory integration therapy, we do have less of it, so I am glad of that since she will be getting older and is growing up so quickly!
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Avatar_m_tn
Thanks for your reply! Our son has done this since he was 2. We brought him to doctors mainly because we thought he was deaf, which they said he wasnt. Thats the extent of the help we've had. I had to tackle this head on recently because as you say when they are younger the "behaviors" can be excused more. And you are right it does turn out to be not so cute when the get older. We had to change our sons school because of the bullying he got(the teachers said everything was fine even when he was coming home black and blue!) I tried to let him just "go with it" on the arm flapping but he he lost control completly. I'm now so frustrated, he does it all day every day and everywhere. His teacher,who is lovely, said that he is finding it very hard to keep it under control but he is really trying. To be honest, I'm starting to get frightened that he will never be able to stop and we all live in the real world. Not everyone is understanding of disabilities, what will he look like at 20 and still doing this?
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi there! My son is 8 and still does hand flapping as well. His hand flapping began when he was an infant, he flapped when he was happy and excited, then it began to occur more frequently.  His occupational therapist has done a great job of getting Nick to monitor himself, then when the flapping begins, Nick will grasp his hands together. Nick is very high functioning, but this one habit along with the vocal tics that accompany it make him stand out in any crowd. He also gnashes his teeth when he grasps his hands together. However, I have to say that he has worked very hard to please me and his therapist to recognize the urge to flap and to grasp his hands together and keep them in his lap. This strategy is working well, and although I feel Nick will never overcome this behavior completely, he is at least aware of it and is working diligently to try to camoflauge it. Hopefully that will be enough to keep the ignorant from teasing him.  Good luck!
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470168_tn?1237474845
I have read through your post a couple of times and have decided to comment on it.  Please do not take this as any kind of criticism, because as parents we are all trying to do the best we can.  But I think it is such a shame that your son has to learn not to show autistic behaviours.  I understand about the desire to not be noticeable, but I do question the lengths we should go to.  For example my son wears DIY ear defenders when we go out to the cinema.  I have had an OT say to me that she would want to try to wean him off them because they make him stand out.  And, if she is going to use some kind of therapy to de-sensitize him then maybe we will try it.  But without the ear defenders he would find it very hard to cope in certain environments, and not using them will limit his movement from a 'coping with the environment' point of view.  If my son was blind, no OT would suggest trying to wean him off a white cane or try to stop him using braille because they 'make him stand out'.  There is a purpose to alot of their behaviours and trying to remove them without replacing them with something that works just as well is not benefitting them.  Please reply to my post, as I would be interested on what your take on this subject is.  Obviously if your son is very high functioning you have more to gain by teaching him to mask any behavioural evidence of autism, whereas my son has too many that I don't see the point of trying to disguise his behaviours, especially when some of them calm him, regulate him etc.  What is your son's opinion on this.  Do you feel he has an understanding of what you are trying to achieve, have you talked with him about it?
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi my son is 12 and still does the hand flapping. I let him go at home. As I feel he should feel safe at home. When we go out and he starts my partner tells him to put his hands in his pockets. He is happy today. Its so hard as he does it when he is happy. He likes to draw V8 car tracking and plays the game in his head and the hands help him he told me....So at home no worries but while out hands in pockets.  Good luck.. :0)
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Avatar_f_tn
As a parent of an autistic son (25 yrs.) begin to make movements with your hands, try to imitate it, is going to bother him and leave him to do it, they do not like to imitate them. In my son worked.
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