Is head-banging pretty common in autistic kids? I think so, based on all my personal experience, reading and researching, volunteering with autistic kids and talking to people. It may not be a 100% correlation - autistic = head banging - but based on all I know it seems to be a usual thing.
I wonder why? I understand Xander getting frustrated for many reasons and not being able to express it, or not understanding why something only bothers him (imagine being in public and only you being able to see or hear something that drives you crazy), or just getting fed up with something that would bother anyone and having to express himself, but I wonder why it takes that form, slamming the head down.
There is one benefit - as anyone who has witnessed this will say, it's very effective at getting attention. Perhaps you imagine head-banging as some old 80's-punk-rock/heavy metal thing, where kids would bang their heads up and down near - note that word - the stage. Yeah. From what I've seen, there's rarely contact, and when there is the banger usually takes pains to not have it happen again.
Not the way Xander can do it. It be can "gentle". I've had some times when something's happened to him and he's just overwhelmed by pain, or anger, or frustration, and he'll pull me down to him and tap his head to mine. One time he had his hand slammed in a door, another time he was really sick, things like that. He takes care to be gentle, for a head butt, and it's usually not too bad. It hurts a touch, and the more he does it the more likely I'll get a bruise, but he can control himself and I can live through it with usually nothing more then a dull throb while he calms himself down.
But there are times...I wrote he banged his head on concrete getting out of the pool. Hard, no pulling back at all. All the adults around him were shocked and scared, half expecting blood to shoot out of his skull like a hose. That time at Barnes and Noble in another post, you could hear the thunk of the skull on the floor, like a soft watermelon being thumped and I felt vibrations through the floor. I saw a young child slam his head into a long table so hard everything on it jumped, from one end to the next.
It gets its message across.
People who aren't used to this can be shocked and may panic when it happens, which if you only see it now and again makes sense. It's already happened a few times at school this year - once in computer lab and once in his therapy. Both times the teachers let him stop work.
Which, I'm fairly sure, was his main goal. And hey, if it works...
(I did something like this once, doing a fairly harmless yet effective faint. I had just been diagnosed with hypoglycemia, low blood sugar. It was found that a sudden large influx of sugar combined with a equally sudden action would make me faint. In middle school, a place I hadn't exactly set afire with my intellectual prowess, I had forgot about a history test. Failing it would have dragged my grade down to single digits. LOW single digits. So at lunch, I chowed down a whole bag of Red Hot candies, and when the test was handed out stood up to ask a question. For a second, anyway.
Got me out of the test.)
Xander is both smart and cunning, a dangerous combination. He knows that freaking some particular teachers out will equal stopping some assignment he doesn't want to do. I was told about it, and checked out the rooms it happened in to see if I could see anything that might have caused him problems with his sensory issues. I didn't. Doesn't mean there's nothing there but...
This tactic loses its impact with most parents, some sooner, some later. I don't remember the exact date this happened with me, but I remember it had been a long, hard day and he was banging his head on the couch arm. I sighed and told him, "If you're going to do that, go ahead and knock yourself out, 'cause I'm tired of it all and could use a break." Now I only notice it for punishment purposes, as in if I see you bang your head and I can tell it's because you're mad, now you can be mad and in trouble as well. He's mostly stopped - it still happens and he still gets in trouble for it, but it's almost always a sign of anger or frustration. Naturally, if it happens for pain reasons, we don't punich - but we also don't freak out, just checking it out and seeing why it happened instead of being shocked or scared.
The impacts have lessened.
But there are other, less obvious ones we still have to lessen.
If we hear about a head butting incident, we tend to investigate and see if there was some cause besides stubborness or not wanting to do something. Since we can't see or feel what Xander feels, we're pretty wide open in our guessing. We've been pretty lenient too, giving him the benefit of the doubt every time we could - the 'kicking the puppy' feeling being avoided. The problem with that is he may get away with stuff a lot.
So now he's been warned we're going the opposite way, only giving him credit if it's an obvious problem. We're doing this for several reasons, not only to get him to understand the get-out-of-jail (by headbutting through a wall) card won't work anymore, but more importantly, we're trying to get him to explain what's happening. Instead of using the head butt as a catch-all reason and leave it to us to understand, we're trying to get him to make us understand by telling us what's going on.
This will lead to misunderstandings, guilt, and more than likely some trouble sleeping for me, because I know I'm going to get some things wrong. But I'm doing it anyway, trying to get him to do more, to grow some, to get a glimpse into him and give him a chance to help himself AND us by telling us his problems. We hope the impact from his head butts will be replaced by the impact from his words.
However, I fully expect some more bruises on my forehead - this time from self-impacts.