Headbanging and autism
Why does my child bang their head?
Headbanging is a normal developmental behavior in children from the age of 6 months up to the age of 3. However, if headbanging continues beyond this age I would look into WHY your child continues to do this repetitive behavior. In the world of biological medicine, headbanging and body rocking are symptoms of deeper rooted issue. Children on the spectrum have sensory processing impairments. This is a result of the brain not being able to adequately deal with the onslaught of noise, light, and other environmental stimuli. This sensory overload is a result of the neurons in the child's brain not being able to adequately do their job due to imbalances in neurotransmitters, inadequate glutathione levels, inefficient mitochondria, food allergies and a host of other gastrointestinal and immune dysfunctions.Constipation or diarrhea disrupts the production of serotonin which then negatively impacts the balance of dopamine. Dopamine is one of the main brain chemicals that helps to properly process sensory information.
Imagine that the neurons in your child's brain are having a "bad day". Then you, the parent, comes along and wants your child to pay attention to you. But instead your child has a tantrum or meltdown or starts to bang their head incessantly. What seems like a whisper may sound like a shouting to them. These kids are so overwhelmed by external sensory stimuli that they will bang their heads to help drown out the background noise. This is soothing for them and helps them to cop in a world that is a sensory minefield.
In my experience headbanging also has a direct link to digestive disturbances. The resulting pain from improper digestion, inflammation or food allergies is the reason for this behavior. In fact, ninety percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract. Therefore, if the child has inflammation due to food allergies or other GI dysfunction the production of serotonin is impaired and hence and pain tolerance is reduced. Children on the spectrum typically have a host of digestive problems such as yeast overgrowth and bacterial dysbiosis from the overuse of antibiotics. These disturbances increase the EXCITOTOXICITY in the brain by depleting the key nutrients and directly impairing the way the brain works through their impact on serotonin and dopamine. There is a strong gut brain connection in autism. Current research is linking the imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut to ASD. Good bacteria impacts the way the brain functions. We know that children with autism lack certain types of good bacteria. When supplemented with the right strains, autistic behaviors like head banging improve.
What can we do help control sensory overload?
To increase your child's tolerance to sensations try to take a whole-body approach to improving cell, body and brain health. Here are a few tips to begin with..
- Eat a multi colored plant based diet full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
- Magnesium deficiency can be at the root of hypersensitivity. Blood tests may help to rule this out.
- Supply your brain with plenty of good fats for proper cell to cell communications
- Work with a sensory integration-trained occupational therapist
- Find out what foods your child is allergic too. Typically all grains, corn and soy need to be eliminated
The most important treatment is diet. It is hard but it is a foundational treatment and is usually the cause of much of the pain your child is experiencing. Changing their diet will diminish the amount of pain they are in and begin a path of healing. Please contact me if you would like to begin this journey together.