Which self-injurious behaviors are characteristic of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Updated: Sep 30, 2019
  • Author: James Robert Brasic, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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A particularly serious form of stereotypy is self-injurious behavior. Self-injury may take any of the following forms:

  • Picking at the skin

  • Self-biting

  • Head punching and slapping

  • Head-to-object and body-to-object banging

  • Body punching and slapping

  • Poking the eye, the anus, and other body parts

  • Lip chewing

  • Removal of hair and nails

  • Teeth banging

Self-injury can result in morbidity and mortality. For example, eye poking and head banging may cause retinal detachments resulting in blindness. Although only a minority of the population of children with autism manifest self-injury, they constitute some of the most challenging patients in developmental pediatrics.

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