Does Hand Flapping Mean Autism?

With today’s easy access to the Internet, it is common for many of us to try and diagnose our own symptoms and ailments; however,girl stimming even if your symptoms come to a match, it does not necessarily mean that you have that particular diagnosis that shows up on your computer. The same can be said with children. If you notice what might be a ‘red flag’ in your child, it does not automatically imply that your child has something ‘wrong’ with him/her. One such ‘red flag’ that many parents get overly worried by is the action of hand flapping. It should be noted that hand flapping can occur for many different reasons, and not only in children with Autism.

Hand flapping can occur due to:

  • Excitement
  • Nervousness/Anxiety
  • Fidgeting
  • High engine level/Arousal level
  • Habitual behavior
  • Decreased body awareness (child does not even know he is doing it)

Overall, 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.  Be sure to reach out to your child’s teachers and therapists if you notice that your child using hand flapping behaviors, so that you may all be on the same page in relation to treating this behavior. It is important to monitor when the hand flapping occurs in order to look for trends. If hand flapping does occur with other “red-flag” behaviors, talk to your pediatrician or a Pediatric Therapist.  

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Stay tuned for my next blog on strategies to replace hand flapping behaviors.


5 replies
  1. Dee
    Dee says:

    My 3 year old grandson has been hand flapping since he was young only when he’s excited. I don’t think he knows he does it. He is very bright. When he does it , his mother yells at him to make him stop. In turn he cries and is upset. From everything I’ve read. That is the wrong approach. I’d appreciate your professional thoughts.

  2. Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson says:

    My 1 year has been hand flapping for about 3 months now I though it was cute and quirky at first but has since seen so many other signs that are showing he possibly had autism. I believe it’s very hard to get a diagnosis at this young age. Has anyone got any advice for me please.

    • Olivia Smith
      Olivia Smith says:

      Dear Paula,

      Hand flapping alone is not indicative of autism. However, you mentioned that your son is displaying other red flags for an autism diagnosis. Here are some specific red flags in addition to the hand flapping that you should watch for:

      • When you call your son’s name, does he respond by either making a sound, saying a word, or looking in your direction?
      • Does your son string sounds together, such as mama, uh oh, or gaga?
      • Does your son wave to greet people?

      If you are concerned, I would schedule an appointment with your son’s pediatrician to discuss what you are seeing. It is always better to be proactive than to wait and see!


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  1. […] I mentioned in my previous blog, hand flapping behavior from a child can occur for many different reasons and not only in children […]

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