Self-injurious behavior is defined as self-aggression and other acts of harm against self. Examples include biting one’s own hand, hitting self in the head, self-cutting, and crashing one’s body into furniture or other objects. Self-injurious behavior often has a sensory component and many children engage in it when they feel overwhelmed and cannot communicate those feelings or sensory needs appropriately.

This behavior is often rapidly “shaped up”, meaning that it can occur more intensely and more often in a relatively short period of time because a parent naturally does not want to see the child hurt. The parent may “give in” to the child out of fear, and pay extra attention to the child to stop the self-aggression at that point in time. An unfortunate side effect of this is that the child can learn (often subconsciously) that this behavior “pays off”, that it gets parental attention very quickly, and so the child resorts to it again and again in future and often more severely each time. Parents are taught how to safely block these behaviors when occurring to prevent harm and how to redirect the child without paying extra attention to the behavior.

Teaching the child good coping strategies, sensory replacements, how to access parental attention more appropriately, and teaching parents how to more safely secure the immediate environment, are important when treating Self-Injurious Behavior.

The downloadable data sheet below helps you to track the frequency of a specific behavior:

click to download the PDF data sheet ABC data collection

click to download the PDF data sheet  Behavior frequency data sheet

click to download the PDF glossary Glossary