Strategies to Replace Hand Flapping

As I mentioned in my previous blog, hand flapping behavior from a child can occur for many different reasons and not only in childrengirl stimming with Autism. It is important to keep in mind that every child is unique and reacts to various situations in a different manner as well as with different mannerisms. Children may use hand flapping when they are overly excited, nervous or if they are demonstrating increased fidgeting.

Below are a few strategies which can be used to decrease hand flapping across environments, at home, school, and in the therapy setting:

  • Squeezing a ball or small fidget toy
  • Squeezing “theraputty”, playdough or clay
  • Pressing hands together firmly (in a prayer position)
  • Pressing hands firmly against another person’s hands, such as a long sustained high five
  • Wall push-ups
  • Give self a “bear hug” or ask an adult for a “bear hug”
  • Wash hands or rub-in lotion or hand sanitizer (this will provide deep pressure into the hands and provide increased body awareness as to what your hands are doing)
  • Verbal re-direction from adult (e.g. “It looks like your body is feeling really excited; instead of waving your hands, can you try squishing some putty or give yourself a bear hug?”)

To summarize, it is important to help your child to identify when the hand flapping behavior is occurring and what he/she can do to replace this behavior so that he does not become self-conscious or stand out from his peers. It is also important to provide consistent strategies across different environments so that the child does not become confused. These strategies can become concrete for the child. If you have any concerns regarding hand flapping and your child, please reach out to your occupational therapist to find an individualized plan that will work for you and your entire family.

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