Q and A: Head Banging Solution

Why Do Children Engaging Head Banging? - https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/a-head-banging-solution/Question: Why Do Children Engage in Head Banging?


Head banging can be a surprisingly common behavior in many children. Up to 20% of babies and toddlers bang their heads purposefully, with boys being up to three times more likely to engage in this behavior than girls. Head banging often starts at around 6 months, peaking anywhere between 18-24 months of age. This habit can stretch out for months (even years), but most children outgrow this behavior by the age of three to four. This behavior may extend later for children diagnosed with autism, developmental delays, or who have suffered from neglect.

1. Sensory Processing: Head banging, like body rocking, is a rhythmic physical movement. When a child is in utero, they feel the sensation of being rocked as their mother moves about, and is later rocked in their caregiver’s arms as an infant. As children mature, this rocking sensation is further developed through play that activates both the vestibular system in the brain (the part of the sensory system that is responsible for motion sense and balance) and the proprioceptive system (the sensory system that provides the body with information regarding where it is in space) that includes activities like: sliding, swinging, riding bikes, etc. When a child’s nervous system is under-stimulated (i.e. he or she receives limited to no sensory input from any of the sensory systems for a variety of natural or environmental causes), he/she may head bang to increase stimulation. To the opposite effect, a child who’s nervous system is hyper-sensitive and thus over-stimulated may head-bang as a comforting behavior, and thus as a way to decrease the stimulation around them while moderating their over-loaded sensory system.

2. Pain: It is important to rule out any organic physical and medical reasons for the child who is head banging (i.e. ear infection or tooth ache). A child may head bang as a way to alleviate pain; that is, engaging in this behavior may be an effort in distracting him/her from the pain being experienced.

Special Offer

Don't miss out on our special offer.
Click here to find out more

3. A way to seek your attention: Some children who engage in continuous head banging will make the connection that this will elicit a strong reaction and immediate attention, and thus begin a cycle of utilizing this behavior to get your attention. In this case, consultation with a professional skilled in the area of behavioral intervention may offer extended support in decreasing this behavior.


4. Frustration: When a child has difficulty expressing themselves he/she may engage in this behavior out of high emotionality and frustration, thus relieving some of the internal turmoil through this behavior.

It is important to note that there are many underlying components of head-banging behaviors, and many factors often contribute to the manifestation of this habit. It is important to be in regular contact with your pediatrician, therapists, and other professionals to help you further explore any specific underlying triggers to this behavior that are unique to your own child.

What Are Some Things That You Can Do About It?

1. Consider padding areas that you find your child frequently bangs their head against.
2. Use a helmet, with an MD prescription.
3. Utilize vibration. This will activate the vestibular system, and your child will thus receive input in a safer and more functional way. Examples include, but are not limited to: vibrating stuffed animals, vibrating tooth brushes, vibrating pillows, vibrating small massagers, etc.
4. Have your child sit in a rocking chair at home and at school.
5. Utilize a yoga ball chair at home and at school to help them receive vestibular input (make sure it is stable with a proper back).
6. Have your child do movement exercises that go against resistance. Examples include, but are not limited to: resistive exercises to activate the proprioceptive system (chin ups on a chin-up bar, lift light weights).

7. Have your child do movement breaks that incorporate rotation and head below the level of the heart (to integrate vestibular input). An example of this would be the yoga pose of “Sunrise, Sunset.” Have your child stand with feet planted and back straight. Your child should reach up with straight arms while taking a deep breath in. This should be followed by your child reaching down towards the floor and touching their feet, while breathing out (its ok if your child bends their knees here).
8. Have your child help with chores around the house that require him or her to lift heavy objects (i.e. laundry basket or bucket of water or watering can), push and pull chairs before and after meals, pick up items from the floor to clean up, etc.
9. Use of a weighted hat/weighted halo to provide proprioceptive input to the head. You can even just utilize a regular baseball cap, as this will still provide input to the head.

10. Have your child utilize a tactile brush around the hair area at transitions (you can buy a bathing brush with bristles at your local drug store). While many children with ASD do not like having their hair combed or brushed, having the child utilize a scrubby brush or tactile brush themselves will allow them control over a feeling that may feel noxious, while providing necessary input at the same time.

By providing children who engage in consistent head banging behavior with doses of routine sensory input throughout the day, we can help moderate feelings of distress by establishing a calmer sensory system, a happier child, and (I’m sure), a thrilled family.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
NISAR REHMAN - November 12, 2014 Reply

need help to understanding screaming, going out and banging head all the time

    Laura - April 23, 2017 Reply

    My daughter is exactly the same constant head banging and biting hand till it bleeds !! The usual answer from people is wear a rugby helmet to protect her head but she’s severely autistic and deaf she hates having anything on her head !!! Arghhhh what to do ??

      kim - August 30, 2017 Reply

      Try a DAN doctor which will help greatly recovering your daughter from autism as well as looking into occupational therapy.

Maurice - February 21, 2017 Reply

Hi, There’s a new company on the market with a revolutionary product, fashionable and NON stigmatising head protection for people with special needs. Have a look at Ribcap: https://ribcap-healthcare.com/

Maurice - February 21, 2017 Reply

Headbanging is an issue and people suffering from this can protect their heads now in a fashionable way. Have a look at Ribcap: https://ribcap-healthcare.com/

Karen - September 8, 2017 Reply

Ho! My son is 10 yrs old and over the summer started hitting his head with his fist saying his head is all fuzzy.
He started school last week and his aid told me that he started banging his head on the wall.

This is all new behaviour. I assume it is frustration, too much input.
I am at a loss on how to help him.
Any ideas???


    Michael Finn - October 28, 2017 Reply

    Having Autism, I can tell you the head banging for me was about excessive input such as too little space and too many people. The banging led to a delicious moment of no sound, no vision, no smell, and no thinking. I wanted a moment of peace and got it. Giving me padded helmets just made angrier against the parents and I fought them. They wanted to stop my moments of peace? I almost hated them for that. I turned to beating myself with my video game controllers and other tools.

    Obviously it was horrible but one thing my parents did was get a tree stump and some nails.

    Hammering nails into the stump led to most of the above without head injuries, metal on metal ringing did the trick for me. When I left the stump then I sought out other ways to do it without hitting my head.

    Montessori schools are priceless in this regard in the experimentation that they helped me recognize this in myself.

Jason - December 6, 2017 Reply

When going in the car with my 5yr old daughter ….every time her mom leaves the car to run into a store if I don’t have a cartoon to distract my daughter she will bang the back of her head on the back of the car seat it’s fast and often and I have to get out of the front seat get into the back and hold the back of her head to protect her…. She is laughing and smiling as she is banging her had and I’m asking her to stop. She gets very upset when I prevent her from doing so. Taking spit from her mouth to her fingers throwing it at me and screaming in a some what possessed manner.
My daughter has an extra protein on 17th chromosome and only 10% of her cerrabellum. She has shown signs of autism from early age….learning regression not playing with toys how they are intended….hiding things lining things in rows …. sensitivity to light sounds textures only eats 10-12 things spinning….running around house in circles….rocking back and forth when to much sounds….bowel from diarrhea to constapation .not toilet trained ….taking finger touching tongue then tapping both eye lids….zoning out and so on…she gives me hugs and smiles and talks but all those other things are ASD but can’t get diagnosis based on what I believe to be 17 chromosome and cerebellum missing. Everything we have taught her so far has been as if she has ASD….
Need help

Amit - January 11, 2018 Reply

My son is 3 year old and he is suspecting with asd ..he speak one world till now and banging his head sometime when he fell down or get hurt. He has great problem of fixation with lift..he is on occupational therapy since 1 year…

James - January 20, 2018 Reply

Does this mean that head banging is always autism? Or could head banging be something else?

    jlucero - February 6, 2018 Reply

    Head banging is most commonly seen in children with sensory dysfunction – a primary feature of autism, but also found in other very young typical children with central nervous systems that haven’t yet matured and children with other developmental disabilities . This dysfunction can make them under-responsive to some sensations (e.g. pain, people talking to them) and over-responsive to other sensations (a baby crying, touch). This prompts a drive to try and manage their sensory input – to bring in more of what they need or find ways to escape what they need to avoid (i.e. what is aversive to them). This means repetitive behaviors that appear unusual to others.

    Joanna Smarowsky - January 25, 2019 Reply

    head bannging has a lot to do with sensory issues my child has sensory processing disorder on top of adhd and autism and speech delays. a child can have sensory processing disorder with out autism.

sandra - June 8, 2018 Reply

I want why my 18month doesnt talk just screams and if you say no he bangs is head on ceramic tiles what should i do

I have a18 month old that just screams bangs is head on ceramic tile should I be concern

Leave a Comment: