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When Should you Worry About Hand Flapping?

A little girl sitting near a lake

Hand flapping is usually seen when the child is in a heightened emotional state, such as excited or anxious, and sometimes even upset. Parents are often concerned when they see it because it can be one of the signs seen in children with autism.

Behaviour in children

Some children with autism “hand flap” as self-stimulatory behavior. Other self-stimulatory behaviors sometimes seen in children with autism include rocking and spinning. These behaviors help them calm themselves or regulate their emotional states. Children may also do it when excited or upset, and it can be very hard to distract an autistic child away from their self-stimulatory behavior.

Hand flapping is developmentally typical for children

In developmentally typical children, it looks quite the same and it also occurs when the child is in a heightened emotional state, but it’s for a different purpose. It does not necessarily serve to calm them or to regulate their behavior, and they can be easily distracted away from it.

When to worry

Hand flapping is developmentally typical children can lessen or dissolve over time, but often it does not. If it is causing a problem in school or the child is receiving negative social attention from the behavior, then it’s time to think about intervention. Simple behavioral therapy can help a child learn to control impulsive hand flapping.

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