Please help with scratching/biting | Autism PDD


Have they tried anything like a token system?  For example, he starts out with 50 tokens each day, and each time he scratches, he loses one, and each time he bites, he loses two.  Then at the end of the day, he can choose a special "treat" depending on how many he has left.  Like to play his favorite video game for 15 minutes, he'd have to have 25 tokens left.  To get one cookie, he'd have to have 10 left...I'm making the numbers up, mind you.  If this is done consistently and persistently at school and/or home, it can really make a big difference.  just an idea...My son is 9 years old, nonverbal and will scratch and bite when he is frustrated.  Ususally it is to an adult putting a demand on him.  But in the past few months, his will sometimes get the person right next to him (ex. classmate).  He is in an Autistic classroom and has been since he was 5 years old.  We have tried Risperdal, Zoloft and Seraquil with no success.  What seems to help somewhat is ADHD meds.  But we are still faced with the biting and scatching at various times.  What is the best way to respond when these behaviors occur and is there any other meds that would help?

Hi Elysssa,

Is there anyway your son could learn to communicate with others at all, such as by typing and working through a computer to get his message across. I'm sure this would lessen the frustrations he must be feeling and might help him. 

The biting and scratching could be a way of lashing out when things get stressful for your son, when things are not going to a routine, are being misunderstood by the teacher because the teacher is not understanding  the things that trigger your son off.   

There is a great curriculum called "Navigating The Social World" by Jeanette McAfee, M.D. which you or your teacher could buy, which shows the caregiver how to notice the stressors and triggers which our children seem to get hung up on and overly stressed about. It shows you how to recognised and diffuse things before it gets to meltdown or the biting and scratching stage. I suggest you look at it as we have found it invaluable. I homeschool my boys and have found it fantastic in helping us. 


Hi Elysssa,

Meds will only treat symptoms, it will be more effective to treat the reason. Which sounds like it's a way for him to get what he wants. Could be to get people away from him, get out of a request or just to see people 'light up'. Try to figure out what it is. The key is to take away the effectiveness of this. If it's reactions he is looking for then don't react, (e.g. "OUCH! THAT HURTS!" while moving away quickly) instead try offereing a teething ring for him to bite while explaining that you don't understand what it is he wants. The flips side is that when ever he tries to show you what he wants without attacking you give a huge reaction in the form of a celebration make that the exciting thing. It would be he;lpful if you had a sepcific example of when you have seen it at home. Then I could explain it more clearly.


I agree, environment has a huge impact on a lot of kids. Especially if he is
non verbal, this may have been the quickest route to getting out of an
overwhelming environment.Have you bit him back? I know many people including myself who have had success with biting back. However one mother had child services called on her when her sons teacher found out she bit him back. It wasn't hard, she didn't leave a mark, and it took care of the problem. My son has alot of sensory issues. His is mostly with sounds, and alot of activity around him. He went through the same phase of biting, kicking and hair pulling about 2 yrs ago. I then realized if i made his enviroment a lil quieter and spoke to him in a calmer manner he did respond alot better. Sometimes I even would take him off to a quiet area just so he could collect himself. Is something maybe going on at school to rile him up?? I would observe that enviroment first. Next I would find out what is the stimulous provoking such actions. Pay attention to what happens immediately prior to those outburts. My son benefitted from wearing earplugs when he was in loud situations or in places where noises were too much to handle. You could also have him seen by a neurpsych and see if maybe he could find some answers. Also a weighted vest can calm them a bit too if they are over-stimulated. My son prefers lots of blankets and pillows around him. Although he can't do that at school, so then he uses the vest.