Autism and self-injury: Where is the line?

Anyone that has followed this blog over the past year has heard me talk about Gavin’s issues with self-injury.

Gavin, when angry, frustrated or extremely anxious will self-injure. We have tried many, many ways of deterring this behavior. Nothing seems to work because he will eventually self-injure again. Autism is a disorder that lends itself to self-injurious behavior. We have learned to not react to him when he does it. However, the problem we are encountering it that his brothers are “modeling” or mimicking this behavior. We CANNOT allow this to happen. I’m very aware that Gavin is struggling right now in EVERY aspect of his young life. While he is struggling, we cannot excuse this behavior. Just because Gavin has Autism does not mean he gets a free pass. In fact it’s more the opposite of that. Gavin MUST be held accountable for his actions regardless of his “challenges” . We have told Gavin many times that if this behavior continues then we will have no choice but to send him back to Akron or Cleveland to get help.

How far do we let this self-injury go?

Where are we supposed to draw the line? At what point is enough….enough? While I know there are kids out there that self-injure MUCH worse then Gavin does, we still have to worry about the impact this is having on the other boys. Not to mention that the behavior is escalating. I’m finding myself less and less tolerant and more and more frustrated. I find myself reading “10 Things My Autistic Kids Wish You Knew” over and over again. I do this in order to “try” and get perspective on the situation. We don’t know for absolute certainty why Gavin does this. Perhaps it’s outside of his control? Maybe, but there is a HUGE part of it that is manipulation. At LEAST some of the time he does this to try and manipulate use into giving him whatever he wants so he will stop hurting himself. This is part of the other mental health issues we are dealing with. The bottom line is we just never know “for sure” what his motives are. We do, however, know “for sure” the impact this behavior is having on everyone around him.

This evening Gavin had a MAJOR meltdown. ALL day he has not been listening. Finally I had enough and “awarded” his behavior with oatmeal for dinner and that’s when the meltdown occurred. He scratched his arms up and repeatedly punched and scratched himself in the face. It took a good 30 minutes for him to regain his composure but not until he had pushed both Emmett and Elliott over the edge. 30 minutes of screaming doesn’t promote the feeling of safety and security for the other boys.


When it comes to self-injury, where does one draw the line?

Rob Gorski

Full time, work from home single Dad to my 3 amazing boys. Oh...and creator fo this blog. :-)
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Rob Gorski on Facebo

Different is right 🙂 Very different

Michele Nichols on F

our kids are all so very different, stimulants work for us…and they damn near our buddy insane for which ssri worked.

Rob Gorski on Facebo

They don't work because of the bipolar issues.Anti-depressants make him MANIC…..BIGTIME. But thanks 🙂

Michele Nichols on F

have you tried ssri's off label prescribing but has worked a treat in our neighbour hood.


Is this mostly a "I want to hurt myself" type of thing or a "I didn't even notice I was doing that" type of thing? You might find this post on stimming interesting, as a lot of stims can end up being self-injurious, and some of us, even as adults, have been working for years on stopping the more problematic ones and haven't managed yet, because we just don't always notice we're doing it:

Lost and Tired

Thanks Tam. He is VERY aware he's doing it. It seems to be attention seeking. Thanks for the link. 🙂