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Hand Flapping

My son flaps his hands, even tho I have told him "quiet hands" a thousand times a day. Why does he do this and how can I help him to stop?

My Opinion:

My son flaps when he is excited or upset. It appears to be an emotion release for him, for extreme emotions whether happy or sad. The flapping is much more pronounced if he has eaten a "bad food". [Some parents report their children flap if they have too much vitamin B6.] If he has had no infraction, he will sometimes start to flap, but then clap or do one of the other things I have taught him. For my son anyway, he is learning to release his emotions thru a more socially appropriate manner, because the flapping had become an unconscious habit which we are trying to break. I have also noticed that he does not flap at all if he is holding a toy or book or something, he will grip the book/toy firmly and sort of shake a little. So if you can redirect your son to a more appropriate stim, or hand him a toy, that might help. Redirection is better than just saying "quiet hands", because your son has to have some outlet for his emotion [or whatever is his reason for the flapping], and if you just suppress it without teaching him a new way of meeting his need, then you might discover he starts head banging or another even more undesirable stim. So you can try "quiet hands, here is a book", then hand him a book [or toy, or whatever] and that can distract him, or you can say "clap hands" or some other behavior.

I use "hands down" instead of "quiet hands" because I think it is a more direct indication of the behavior that I want. To me "quiet" is not a word that is associated with "hands" because they are not making noise, they are just active. But then this is my overly-literal nature, so it might also work better for you if your son is also overly-literal.

Also this works for some kids. You can get in his face at his level and flap with him. Make your own flapping very obvious, and act like you have the same emotion as your son has, happy or sad or whatever. Then make it a game. You might soon find that when he flaps, he will then automatically be reminded of the game you play, and the flapping will become more noticeable to him. Most kids do not realize they are flapping, even with a "quiet hands" command, but if it triggers a fun memory of a game, that can make the connection. Then your son might start flapping, remember the game, which will break his flapping habit for that moment while he goes to find you to play the game. Then after a while, the flapping will not be an automatic response any more, it will be purposeful, which is the entire point, you want him to be able to control it, so he can NOT do it when it is not appropriate.

I don't flap myself, but I have noticed that I do like my left arm to be bent at the elbow, with my hand up near my ear or across my chest. My hand is always either across my chest or near my ear or my chin resting on my hand. I have also noticed that when I am out, I carry my backpack over my shoulder but I always have my left hand "helping" the strap to stay on my shoulder [when I don't have to hold one of my kids' hands]. I guess this is my answer to making it socially appropriate when I am in public. I don't know whether or not I think this information is supposed to help you, but just the feeling of that arm bent, that is a very nice feeling to me for some reason, very relaxing, and I do it subconsciously, so I think if you can get your son to realize when he is doing it, and give him another stim to do at those times, if he is like me that might be helpful to him.

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