Navigating Self-Harm in Autism with Understanding and SupportSep 03, 2023
Talking about self-harm is something that might not be easy to discuss but is incredibly important. It's a topic that deserves our attention, even if it's a bit tough to wrap our heads around.
Scientists often refer to self-harm as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). According to Dr. Rachel Moseley, autistic and non-autistic individuals engage in NSSI (Non-Suicidal Self-Injury) for various reasons, which differ based on the person and situation. While some use NSSI for sensory stimulation or communication, most do it as a coping mechanism for emotions like anger, stress, and anxiety. Research shows that autistic individuals may view NSSI differently: some as an addiction, others as a deliberate strategy to manage overwhelming feelings. Non-speaking autistic individuals with intellectual disabilities also engage in self-harm due to distress from unexpected changes, communication difficulties, and sensory discomfort, aiming to soothe these feelings.
Dr. Moseley is a researcher and Principal Investigator (Bournemouth University, England), and is also an autistic adult. She shares some ways parents and caregivers can support an autistic individual who engages in self-harming behavior. She suggests the following:
- Try your best to stay calm and respond in a patient, compassionate and non-judgemental way
- Seek to understand what triggers NSSI in your child
- Offer help with emotional awareness and expression
- Tackle low self-worth and loneliness
Dr. Moseley wrote an article for Autism Advocate Parenting Magazine, expanding on this invaluable information. Expand your understanding of self-harm, and more importantly, how you can best support your autistic child.
Access Dr. Moseley's article in our article directory by clicking here.
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