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Autism Support in UAE: ASD and Self- Injurious Behaviour

To promote autism support in UAE, our team at Small Steps Big Dreams in Dubai, UAE has worked tirelessly to shed light on ASD-related matters. This ranges from the various causes and symptoms to the associated risks, and to how we can aid autistic individuals. Self-injury is one of the problems that arise among people who suffer from this neurological disorder.

To be clear, self-injury is not a symptom of autism. However, certain symptoms, situations and comorbidities connected to ASD can lead some people with autism to engage in acts wherein they harm themselves.

Treating underlying disorders through behaviour therapy, and helping autistic individual to learn additional communication and coping skills can enable them to avoid self-injury, and minimize the long-term effects of this behaviour.

Self-Injurious Behaviour for an Autistic Child

One very imperative factor to think about is that an individual may engage in self-injury for several reasons. This article deals strictly with self-injury coinciding with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Regardless, people suffering from other disorders may also engage in self-harm.

Behaviour that may cause physical harm to the individual is classified as self-injurious. This includes slapping, scratching, head banging, biting and/or pinching, etc.

Why Do Autistic People Engage in Self-Injury?

Some specialists have investigated this matter and have theorized that the levels of certain neurotransmitters are affiliated with the autistic child harming themselves. Beta-endorphins are endogenous, narcotic-like substances in the brain, and self-injury may increase the production and/or the release of these endorphins. In consequence, the individual experiences an anesthesia-like effect and, ostensibly, they might not feel any pain while taking part in this behaviour.



In some of the case studies researched to improve autism support in Dubai, it can be deduced that self-injury might serve as a means of connection or conversation for an individual. Often an autistic child tries to convey a feeling or idea which they may have trouble bring up with words. Biting, head banging or other self-injurious behaviours may thus be seen by them as a necessary medium to get their point across, and may represent their urgent need to express pain, fear, displeasure or anxiety. The child diagnosed with ASD might be trying to say that they’re scared of asking you to play with them, and so it can be an attempt to attract your attention towards themselves.

Learned Behaviour

Parents certainly don’t indulge in and/or entertain any favor towards the act of self-injurious behaviour for their children, but various diagnoses display that they may have unintentionally enforced the idea in their minds. For instance, if the child tries to hurt themself, the parent or teacher hands them a preferred toy as a distraction. This way, the child with ASD realizes that they’ll get what they want this way. Likewise, if the child engages in self-injury, and the parent immediately removes them from an environment, they unknowingly may endorse injury as an effective method to get out of uncomfortable situations.


Autism diagnoses show that self-injurious behaviour is also a typical occurrence among several hereditary disorders, e.g. Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, and Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, etc. In consideration of the evidence that genetic disorders are associated with some form of structural damage and/or biochemical dysfunction, these anomalies may push the individual towards self-abuse.

Identifying and Intervention

Self-injurious behaviour can become a serious risk to anyone with autism, especially if they continue down this path as they age.

In light of our research to promote autism support in UAE, it is a common recommendation that each child with autism should have a behaviour therapy plan which is unique to their specific needs and/or challenges. Parents, guardians and caregivers can keep a journal to track instances of self-injury, entailing the details of when it occurred and why. Sometimes, social stories may help children practice before a real-life experience. Providing them information or a choice will come next to reduce their anxiety. Despite progress in behaviour therapy and drug treatment, self-injury is not so easy to stop. The side effects of the medication may prove too troublesome for some people, and behavioural treatment might be hard to find in some communities. In place of this, predictable situations may help in reducing self-injury for those diagnosed with ASD, for whom unpredictability serves as a trigger for self-injury.

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