Help! My son is hitting his head and I'm worried he'll hurt himself!

We have a son of 18 months old who has retinal detachment in both eyes. He was operated on in India by a very good doctor. Our problem is he has been bashing his head on the floor and walls. When we put him in his cot he stands and bangs his head on the sides and if I dont stop him he will carry on.
I am worried that he will suffer from brain damage.

What can I do to stop him from doing this?

Topics: Behavior
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Posted by Amber Bobnar on Apr 29, 2011 - 6:12pm

It sounds like you have a lot to deal with right now! I'm not an expert, but I imagine your son is banging his head for self stimulation. My son's habit is to tap his right ear, which for the most part is a very benign habit, but sometimes he'll smack his head very hard! We've found that it is almost impossible to get him to stop doing the behavior if it's something he really wants to do. The best thing we can do is try to divert his attention and get him involved in another activity, but as you know, this only works sometimes and obviously doesn't work when you aren't around!

For head banging, it's probably a good idea to keep his bed room walls padded so he can move about in the room alone and not hurt himself. I also know they make padded helmets for children who bang their heads so much they may hurt themselves.

Another thing to think about is what is he getting out of the sensation and see if you can give him more appropriate feedback. For example, if he likes the feeling of his head moving around, maybe he is craving vestibular input, so you might want to try swings or trampolines during the day to help get that same feedback. If he likes the pressure on his head, you can try getting him into a deep pressure or brushing program where you routinely brush his body and apply pressure to his joints through out the day. Weighted vests sometimes help give that feeling of pressure too. I'm sure you can ask an Occupational Therapist for advice on how to do deep pressure and brushing.

I'm not sure that any of these ideas will help but I certainly hope you find some answers soon. I hope you have a good Occupational Therapist to talk to because they would have much more advice than I do!

Good luck!

Posted by marymcd on May 17, 2011 - 5:33am

What I would add to the above , comprehensive answer, is that it is possible for head banging to cause retinal detachment and for that reason I would be seeking the advice of a doctor as he has already had successful surgery to correct this. Remember though,he is only eighteen months old and this behavior is in no way intractable at this point. Your doctor has a range of options at his discretion and I would ask for his opinion. One very small further point; have you tried to engage him with music? That may be one way for him to be stimulated without reinforcing the self-injurious behavior and it can be soothing,exciting,intriguing for him as well as providing a great way for you to interact with him swaying,dancing or just quietly enjoying.
Very best wishes.