What Should You Do If Your Child with Autism Hits You?

If your child with autism hits you, it's not a personal attack. It's a manifestation of their inability to communicate emotions effectively. Here are some tips to deal with these situations.

Alan Hollander
November 17, 2023

What Should You Do If Your Child with Autism Hits You?

If your child with autism hits you, it's not a personal attack. It's a manifestation of their inability to communicate emotions effectively. Here are some tips to deal with these situations.

Understanding Autism Hitting Behavior

When it comes to understanding and addressing autism hitting behavior, it is crucial for parents and caregivers to have a comprehensive understanding of what it entails and the common triggers associated with it.

What is Autism Hitting Behavior?

Autism hitting behavior refers to the act of a child with autism using physical force by hitting others or objects. This behavior is characterized by the child intentionally striking or making contact with someone or something. It is important to note that hitting behavior in children with autism is not a reflection of malicious intent, but rather a means of communication or a response to certain triggers or stimuli.

Hitting behavior can manifest differently in each child with autism. Some children may engage in hitting as a form of self-stimulation or sensory-seeking behavior, while others may exhibit hitting as a result of frustration, communication difficulties, or difficulty regulating emotions. It is essential to approach this behavior with empathy, understanding, and patience.

Common Triggers for Hitting Behavior

Understanding the common triggers for hitting behavior in children with autism can help parents and caregivers anticipate and manage these situations more effectively. While triggers can vary from child to child, some common factors that may contribute to hitting behavior include:

  1. Sensory Overload: Children with autism often experience sensory sensitivities, and overwhelming sensory input can lead to feelings of distress or discomfort, potentially resulting in hitting behavior.
  2. Communication Challenges: Difficulty expressing needs, wants, or emotions verbally can lead to frustration and hitting behavior as a means of communication.
  3. Transitions and Changes: Changes in routines or transitions from one activity to another can be challenging for children with autism, leading to hitting behavior as a way to cope with the unfamiliar or unexpected.
  4. Emotional Regulation: Children with autism may have difficulty regulating their emotions, and hitting behavior can be a response to feelings of anger, anxiety, or stress.
  5. Lack of Social Skills: Limited social skills and difficulties in understanding social cues and boundaries can contribute to hitting behavior during social interactions.

By identifying the triggers specific to an individual child, parents and caregivers can better address and manage hitting behavior in a supportive and proactive manner.

Understanding the underlying causes and triggers of hitting behavior is the first step in effectively managing and addressing this challenging behavior. In the following sections, we will explore strategies, interventions, and self-care techniques for parents to navigate and support their child with autism through this journey.

two children playing on tire swing

The Importance of Patience

When it comes to dealing with autism hitting behavior, one of the most important qualities that parents can possess is patience. Patience plays a crucial role in understanding and supporting children with autism who engage in hitting behavior. It allows parents to respond calmly, provide consistent guidance, and create a safe environment for their child to learn and grow.

The Power of Patience in Dealing with Autism Hitting Behavior

Patience is a powerful tool in managing and addressing autism hitting behavior. By approaching the situation with patience, parents can better understand the underlying reasons behind their child's hitting behavior. It is important to remember that hitting is often a form of communication for individuals with autism who may struggle with expressing their emotions or needs in more conventional ways.

When parents approach these challenging moments with patience, they can create an environment that promotes trust and understanding. By remaining calm and composed, parents can model appropriate behavior and provide a sense of security for their child. Patience allows parents to respond to hitting behavior in a supportive and empathetic manner, helping their child develop alternative communication and coping skills.

Benefits of Cultivating Patience as a Parent

Cultivating patience as a parent of a child with autism has numerous benefits. Here are a few key advantages:

  1. Building a Stronger Relationship: Patience fosters a deeper connection between parents and their child. When parents demonstrate understanding and patience, it helps to build trust and strengthens the parent-child relationship.
  2. Promoting Emotional Regulation: By remaining patient in challenging situations, parents can model emotional regulation for their child. This can teach the child valuable skills in managing their own emotions and reactions.
  3. Creating a Positive Learning Environment: Patience allows parents to create a safe and supportive environment for their child. This helps the child feel more comfortable and engaged, which can enhance their learning and development.
  4. Reducing Stress: Patience can help parents manage their own stress levels when faced with challenging behaviors. By staying patient, parents can approach situations with a clearer mindset and make more rational decisions.
  5. Encouraging Self-Care: Patience also extends to parents' own well-being. Taking the time to practice self-care and patience can help parents recharge and maintain their own emotional resilience.

Remember that patience is a skill that can be developed and strengthened over time. It is essential for parents to be patient with themselves as they navigate the complexities of raising a child with autism. Seeking support from professionals, such as therapists or support groups, can also be beneficial in developing and maintaining patience.

By embracing patience, parents can create an environment that nurtures their child's growth, development, and overall well-being, while effectively addressing and managing autism hitting behavior.

Strategies for Managing Autism Hitting Behavior

Dealing with autism hitting behavior can be challenging for parents. However, implementing effective strategies can help manage and reduce such behavior. In this section, we will explore three strategies that can be helpful in managing autism hitting behavior: staying calm and maintaining composure, creating a safe environment, and implementing visual supports and communication strategies.

Stay Calm and Maintain Composure

When faced with hitting behavior from a child with autism, it is crucial for parents to remain calm and composed. Reacting with anger or frustration can escalate the situation and potentially reinforce the behavior. By staying calm, parents can model appropriate behavior and provide a sense of stability for the child.

Taking deep breaths, using self-calming techniques, and reminding yourself that the hitting behavior is a manifestation of the child's challenges can help you maintain composure. It is important to remember that hitting is a form of communication for the child and not a personal attack. Seek support from professionals or support groups to help you cope with your emotions and develop effective strategies.

Create a Safe Environment

Creating a safe environment is key to managing autism hitting behavior. By implementing safety measures, you can help prevent potential triggers and minimize the occurrence of hitting incidents. Here are some strategies for creating a safe environment:

  • Remove potential hazards: Identify and remove objects that may be used as weapons or cause harm during hitting episodes.
  • Establish a calm space: Designate a quiet and comfortable area where the child can retreat when feeling overwhelmed or agitated.
  • Provide sensory outlets: Offer sensory tools, such as fidget toys or sensory bins, to help the child regulate their emotions and provide alternative ways to release frustration.
  • Use visual cues: Implement visual schedules or social stories to help the child understand expectations and routines, reducing anxiety and confusion.

By creating a safe environment, you can minimize triggers that may lead to hitting behavior and promote a sense of security for the child.

Implement Visual Supports and Communication Strategies

Visual supports and communication strategies are essential tools for managing autism hitting behavior. These strategies help individuals with autism understand and express their needs, reducing frustration and the likelihood of resorting to hitting. Here are some effective techniques:

  • Visual schedules: Use visual schedules to outline daily activities, routines, and transitions. Visual schedules provide predictability and help the child understand what is expected of them.
  • Social stories: Develop social stories that specifically address hitting behavior. These stories can explain why hitting is not acceptable and provide alternative ways to express emotions.
  • Picture exchange communication system (PECS): PECS is a visual communication system that uses pictures to help individuals with autism express their needs and desires. Implementing PECS can provide a means of communication for the child, reducing frustration and hitting incidents.

By incorporating visual supports and communication strategies into daily routines, parents can provide their child with effective tools to express themselves and reduce the likelihood of hitting behavior.

Managing autism hitting behavior requires patience, consistency, and a deep understanding of the child's unique needs. By staying calm, creating a safe environment, and implementing visual supports and communication strategies, parents can effectively manage hitting behavior and promote positive interactions.

Seeking Professional Help

When dealing with autism hitting behavior, it is important for parents to know when to seek professional assistance. While managing hitting behavior can be challenging, there are therapy and intervention options available that can help both the child with autism and their parents.

When to Seek Professional Assistance

Parents should consider seeking professional help if their child's hitting behavior becomes frequent, intense, or poses a safety risk to themselves or others. Additionally, if the hitting behavior is accompanied by other challenging behaviors such as self-injurious behavior or aggression, it may be beneficial to consult with a professional. Seeking professional assistance can provide parents with the guidance and support needed to effectively manage and address the hitting behavior.

If you are located in North Carolina and need professional assistance, there are resources available to you. You can reach out to local autism organizations or support groups in your area. Additionally, consulting with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a pediatrician or a behavioral therapist specializing in autism, can provide valuable insights and recommendations tailored to your child's specific needs.

Therapy and Intervention Options for Autism Hitting Behavior

There are various therapy and intervention options available to help manage and reduce hitting behavior in children with autism. These strategies are designed to address the underlying causes of the behavior and teach alternative ways of expressing emotions and needs. Some effective therapy approaches for autism hitting behavior may include:

  1. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): ABA therapy focuses on identifying the antecedents (triggers) and consequences of hitting behavior. A qualified ABA therapist can develop a behavior intervention plan tailored to your child's needs, which may include reinforcement strategies, communication training, and positive behavior supports.
  2. Social Skills Training: Social skills training can help children with autism develop appropriate ways to interact with others and communicate their needs effectively. By enhancing their social skills, children may be less likely to resort to hitting as a means of communication or self-regulation.
  3. Sensory Integration Therapy: Some children with autism engage in hitting behavior due to sensory processing challenges. Sensory integration therapy can help children regulate their sensory experiences and develop coping strategies for sensory overload. This can, in turn, reduce the likelihood of hitting behavior.
  4. Parent Training and Support: Parents play a crucial role in managing hitting behavior in children with autism. Participating in parent training programs and receiving guidance from professionals can provide parents with the necessary skills and knowledge to implement effective behavior management techniques at home. Additionally, connecting with other parents who have similar experiences can offer emotional support and valuable insights.

Remember, each child is unique, and therapy approaches should be tailored to their individual needs. Consulting with professionals specializing in autism will help determine the most suitable therapy and intervention options for your child. By seeking professional help, parents can gain the necessary tools and support to effectively address hitting behavior and promote positive development in their child with autism.

Self-Care for Parents

Parenting a child with autism can be a rewarding but challenging journey. It's important for parents to prioritize their own well-being and practice self-care. Taking care of yourself not only benefits you, but it also equips you to better support your child's needs. In this section, we will explore the importance of self-care and provide strategies for managing stress and building resilience.

The Importance of Self-Care

As a parent of a child with autism, it's common to prioritize your child's needs above your own. However, neglecting your own well-being can lead to burnout and make it more difficult to provide the support your child needs. Practicing self-care is essential for maintaining your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Self-care can take many forms, and it's important to find what works best for you. It may involve activities such as exercise, spending time with loved ones, engaging in hobbies, or seeking support from other parents in similar situations. By making time for yourself and engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, you can recharge and approach the challenges of parenting with renewed energy.

Managing Stress and Building Resilience

Parenting a child with autism can be accompanied by high levels of stress. It's important to develop coping mechanisms and build resilience to navigate these challenges effectively. Here are some strategies to help manage stress and build resilience:

  1. Seek Support: Reach out to other parents of children with autism or join support groups. Sharing experiences and connecting with others who understand can provide a sense of validation and support.
  2. Practice Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine. This could include deep breathing exercises, meditation, or engaging in activities that promote relaxation and present-moment awareness.
  3. Set Realistic Expectations: Understand that you are doing your best, and it's okay to ask for help. Set realistic expectations for yourself and your child, and be gentle with yourself when things don't go as planned.
  4. Take Breaks: It's important to give yourself permission to take breaks when needed. Whether it's a short walk, a quiet moment to yourself, or scheduling respite care, taking breaks can help you recharge and come back with a refreshed mindset.
  5. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Remember that you are doing your best in a challenging situation. Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem.

Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish, but rather a necessary part of being an effective caregiver. By prioritizing self-care, managing stress, and building resilience, you can better support your child with autism and create a nurturing environment for their growth and development.


Is it common for children with autism to hit?

Yes, hitting behavior is relatively common in children with autism. It is their way of expressing frustration or trying to communicate something that they cannot express verbally.

How can I prevent my child from hitting me?

While it may not be possible to prevent hitting behavior altogether, there are some things you can do to minimize the chances of it happening. Identifying triggers, providing positive reinforcement for good behavior, and seeking professional help are all effective ways to reduce hitting behavior.

What should I do if my child hits me in public?

If your child hits you in public, try to remain calm and remove yourself and your child from the situation as quickly as possible. It may also be helpful to have a plan in place beforehand for how to handle such situations.

Will my child outgrow this behavior?

With appropriate interventions and support, most children with autism can learn alternative ways of communicating their emotions and feelings. However, every child is unique, and it is essential to seek professional help if the hitting behavior persists or becomes more severe over time.

Remember that dealing with hitting behavior can be challenging for both you and your child. Be patient, stay calm, and seek support when needed. With time and effort, you can find effective strategies for managing this challenging behavior.


Dealing with hitting behavior from a child with autism can be a challenging and emotional experience. However, with patience, understanding, and the right strategies, you can help your child learn to communicate their emotions in a more effective way. Remember to stay calm, identify the triggers, use positive reinforcement, and seek professional help if needed. With your support and love, your child can learn to cope with their emotions and lead a happy, fulfilling life.