Sunday, July 12, 2009

Head Banging

Anyone with a child with sensory issues, or one from a sensory deprived past (orphanage) will recognize that this title isn't referring to music or dancing. No, it's about BANGING their heads on stuff. HARD stuff. Stuff that they have no reason to bang their heads on.

Micah does this more so to hear the noise. But the pain doesn't bother him at all. He'll lay down on the floor to get dressed or a diaper change (if someone else is using the changing table) and he'll pick his head up and hit it on the ground a few times. Just for fun. But he will stop when told to, usually, and doesn't do it too excessively.

A few days ago I had a friend over for the day and I put Micah in his crib only to hear banging. I thought it was him kicking the wall through the slats, but went in to find that it was his head. And he was banging it HARD. I stopped him, laid him down, only to hear him start back up a few minutes later. His crib is no longer against the wall. He had a knot on his head after nap that day.

Thankfully, once Micah is asleep he stays asleep for the most part. He doesn't really wake and need attention during the night and I'm VERY thankful for that! Even if he does wake he'll fuss a second and get comfy and go back to sleep. He's a mobile sleeper- all over the crib- and it's sometimes funny to see the positions he gets himself in to. He has a Boppy he'll curl up on or lay his head in or even sit in the center of it and fall asleep on the top of it (sitting up). Anyway, he plays when he's going to sleep but then he's done, he's out, he's quiet for the night.

Emma, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Yes, she too will bang her head on things for fun. The sliding glass doors that go out to the playroom for example. Or she'll go from sitting to laying down in .002 seconds with a loud KONK on the floor. And then she'll laugh. So we really kind of worry about her pain tolerance because she really doesn't allow herself to recognize pain as hurting. Pretty much ever.

Another difference is that Emma, once asleep, doesn't stop her stimming. In fact, this is one area where we've almost got our hands tied as far as ridding her of the behavior because there's just no way for us to be there monitoring this and looking for when it's about to start and stopping it... We just can't afford to miss enough sleep for that to be realistic.

Emma will wake just slightly during any point in the night and in order to soothe herself, she'll rock. HARD. With her thumb in her mouth. It's mostly just her upper body that goes back and forth, but... she does it so that every rock slams her into the crib rails. HARD. After a few times of hearing this through the monitor, I generally go from my room to hers, move her away from the rail, tell her no, set her in the center of the mattress, and hope and pray she doesn't scoot back over again.

But last night... I was up 4 times. And this morning, when we were all somewhat awake but the kids were all content and there was no reason we had to jump out of bed, she started it up again.

I have no solution for this other than holding her and rocking her... which we have done... but there's just no real way to do this all night every night, and especially on her whim when she wakes just a little from her good sleep and wants to get back to sleep.

So... I'm hoping and praying that since her new bed will not make that same springs and wood banging sound that the current rail makes... that maybe, just maybe, she will decide it's just not as fun to bang her head on the canvas and mesh and will stop. Or at the very least, maybe it won't make quite so much noise so that I can sleep through it. :)


  1. As I was reading, I was trying to think of ways to sooth Emma without the head banging at night. I have tried a vibrating seat cushion (the ones that people put on the back of a desk chair) on the floor for my kiddos at school that have sensory issues. You might be able to place it under the fitted sheet, that way the chord wouldn't be in sight for her to play with. I asked around and someone had one, so I didn't have to purchase one. There are also cool bed "bumper pads" for toddler/twin beds that are inflatable for the edge of the bed so a kiddo can't roll out that might keep her away from the wall/crib rails.( I have 2 kiddos with CP as well as being a special ed teacher, so I tend to be a trial and error kind of person, always thinking of something new!

  2. Just something I heard, for what it is worth... I've heard that kids who have ADHD (and thus often higher sensory needs) benefit from sleeping on rough fabric, like terry cloth towel. I wonder, just wonder, if there is some sort of added sensory experience like that which could be added to her sleeping environment. I would guess not, as the banging is more of a jarring feeling to her bones, joints, muscles. But, worth having Emma or Micha sleep on top of a towel for a night or two to see, eh?

  3. Hmmm...I would wonder if it is the "crashing" that she likes. Crashing is a type of sensory seeking behavior (as you probably know!). It likely accomplishes something for the vestibular system, but it also just plain feels good. I enjoy some good crashing now and again - usually just sitting on my knee's and flopping down against the bed, or standing up in front of the bed and crashing down.

    It could also be the resistance of the banging - resistance feels...well, spectacular when you've got sensory needs.

    I wonder if this might be something that helps, that you could talk to her OT about incorporating some crashing/resistance into her sessions, to hopefully lessen the amount she feels the need to do it during the night. However, I don't have a clue what that might look like!! I know some good resistance or heavy work for me is throwing a medicine ball at a small tilted trampoline, I loved to let it crash into my chest on the rebound - instead of using my hands.

    Feel free to ignore all this if I am just totally off base!!!

    Good luck!

  4. Lily is a head banger too, but in bed only. Usually in the morning before she gets up (she is still in her crib). Obviously she didn't live in an orphanage like Emma, but when we are consistent with her using the therapy swing we have in our basement and also when she uses the little trampoline in the house (she uses this on her own all of the time -she bounces sitting -crazy stuff), her banging decreases as does the gritting of her teeth. Having her tonsils/adenoid/tube surgery brought out the banging and gritting all over again. Thankfully, she seems to have stopped again. Lily sensory seeks all of the time especially orally (licks hands, chews on hair, chews on wash clothes, flips wash clothes in front of her, head bangs, spins in circles, bounces on her rear on the floor or tramp etc) and it about drives me bonkers. We are still trying to find an OT close to home to help us with this, but at least I have the swing (spandex-airwalker) and the trampoline. I'm hoping with the tonsils/pain gone we might lose some of these "coping skills".

  5. Oh gosh, Kara still bounces in her crib, the springs squeeking for hours sometimes, we take her water, hugs her, pat her, hold her sometimes, but as soon as we walk out, squeak, squeak, squeak. We put rbbber between the crib and the srpings, it helped, she bounces that out.

    I though for certain she would be better about this behavior by now, she isn't, and like you, nothing we have tried makes her stop. She loves bouncing, always a huge smile on her face, giggles, a behavior she learned in the three years (or 5 for Emma) she lived in the orphanage, how can a parent redirect that?I like some of the suggestions people have made here. Kara does love terry towels, and she does need to see the ENT.

    Amanda goes to bed, lies down,a nd falls a sleep most nights, she is more the breathing hard, tooth grinding, sing-songing kind of self stim girl, as long as she swims, she does not do these very often.

    I hope Emmma's new bed helps.

  6. ethan used to rock side to side from the waist up with the back of his hand on his opposite cheek. He likes to rock against the back of the couch too during the day. he never got into head banging but likes to rock hard on the couch or carseat. he has been home 5 years and has come a long way. he was so sensory avoidant when he came home as well as hypervigilant. I would almost rather he seeks sensory uput than avoids it. have you read out of sync child and the out of sync child plays? does she go to OT at all for sensory therapy? I try to give him as much sensory input as I can whenever I can. and somewhat I have just learned to live with it.

  7. Hi. I'm an OT with serious sensory issues and I've gotten pretty interested in such things so I've got a pretty good training in it even though I don't work with children. I've used what I have learned with adults and with myself with really good results.

    Have you tried a weighted blanket? Your OT can help you out or you can email me and I'll give you some web pages (masterofironyatattdotnet). These provide sensory feedback and are very relaxing.

    I have always had huge problems relaxing enough to sleep and have gone weeks with almost no sleep as a result. 3 years ago I started trying a weighted blanket and immediately started sleeping. That was with a peds blanket. I now have a full-sized one that is more appropriate for my size and I have had maybe 2 bad nights in the last 3 years.

  8. She sounds very sensory seeking. Some of my kids that I work with NEED sensory stimulation to either calm down, or know where their body is in relation to the walls/ground. I'm trying to think of what you can do to minimize it. I'd say maybe a weighted blanket?

  9. We made our own weighted blanket to keep the cost down! I did a search online and found directions!

  10. Jonathan is also a terrible head banger! He will hit it so hard sometimes, that if he's sitting on my lap in hurts ME! Our Dr. who specializes in Developmental Disabilities, said that if he is doing it because he is bored, give him something to do without bringing attention to it, if he's doing it out of frustration, try and have him communicate his wants and if he's doing it for attention ignore it. When he does it out of blatant defiance, after we tell him no, he gets a swat on the bottom and put in time out, that usually stops him. Thankfully, he doesn't do it at night or at nap, he likes his bed, thankfully, but he does throw his "friends" out of the crib and reaches for anything he can to knock it on the floor, so needless to say we don't have anything near his crib ;o)

  11. After I read some responses about the weighted blanket, it made me think that might just work. I LOVE to have tons of heavy blankets on, not to keep warm, I have to have the air on AND a fan blowing right in my face, along with my CPAP, lol, but I love the weight, I sleep so much better. If I go to a hotel I wind up folding the comforters in two or three, just to make them heavier, or I can't sleep well. Maybe if she won't keep a blanket on, a weighted vest or something? Just a thought.

  12. My Sera, also institutionalized for 3.5 yrs in Ch*na, will also rock and bang when ever she is trying to sleep. If she is upset or not feeling well, she bangs and rocks HARD.She also creates knots on her head, of I have her bed near a hard surface. Body pillow along the wall work best for us. She does not like a weighted blanket, but does like to sleep with a duvet. BTW My son, also adopted from Ch*na, loves a weighted blanket and also sleeps on toweling, but has not ever rocked. She also just rolls forcefully from side to side without banging and has her thumb in her mouth. This rocking is one of the reasons we had to delay her facial repairs, because she would most certainly rip stitches. Now, she will stop when I put my hand on her and talk to her, or even sometimes by hearing me tell her to stop. I was told that this rocking motion creates a "buzz" similar to when you spin in circles. This "buzz" makes it much easier to relax and sleep, or shut out the world. She was in a baby room with 25 other kids and 2 nannies. I know it was noisy there and the rocking was her way to cope and get sleep. She needs this to soothe herself. It is familiar and has worked. Melatonin at bedtime has helped ease it for her. I wish I could also stop this need, since Sera is due to have her surgery in a little over a week. I will be holding her all night, no doubt. I hope you can find what Emma and Micha need to help calm their rocking! You are going to need sleep :-)

  13. Hi, I am a Meredith, too, and just founf this post while googling. We have a headbanging problem, here, too. We went to the DR today for it and he just didn't know. :( Hope things are better for you