Making Sense of Scratching, Clawing and Biting

It’s December 27th…probably the worst possible day to write a blog and expect that someone will read it…much less respond to it.  But who cares…I have time to write and I just had a good conversation with a buddy of mine who is also a daddy with a son with autism and so it motivated me to write a blog.  So…to the tens of people out there today on December 27th who are blogging or searching…this is for you!

My friend and I talked about how at times our sons (his 5 and mine 7-years-old) can have immediate fits where they scratch and bite and claw and do all that fun stuff that comes with autism.

I don’t know why his does it, but I think my wife and I have somewhat made sense of William’s fits…and it all is about communication.  UGH!

Lately we’ve noticed that he’ll claw/bite/scratch/pinch whatever when he just can’t communicate his needs and wants.  Yeah, yeah, yeah this sounds pretty simple but as he gets older, it’s more and more complex.

William recently reverted back to scratching/clawing/biting not just when he doesn’t get his way, but when he can’t express what he wants and he is embarrassed.

Yep…he’s embarrassed that he can’t explain what he wants.

Wow…it hit me like a ton of bricks when we finally realized this.  It wasn’t that he didn’t get a toy or treat, it’s when he knows that he did something that he shouldn’t have done or that he did something that brings him negative attention.

The mind of the autistic child is so fascinating.  I wish I could just plug into my son’s brain and see how he sees–someone will develop that and will become a Gillionaire!

Yes he still gets upset when he gets in trouble or doesn’t get his way, but the older my son gets the more i see that his frustration is not only in his lack of communication, but that he understands that he’s not “typical” and that he sees how at times it brings him attention that isn’t the right kind of attention.

Anyone else have similar experiences? Thoughts?  Words of advice or in addition to?

To read more blogs from Seth and TheFowler4Group, check out their Website ( and while you’re there, buy a copy of their book, “Look At My Eyes”.  Or find them on YouTube.  To contact TheFowler4 Group email:

3 responses to “Making Sense of Scratching, Clawing and Biting

  1. So true!

    Our speech therapist once said “Thomas knows he has a speech problem.”

    I would have never considered that.

    On another note, Thomas was at Cook children’s and our anesthesiologist recommended you for support….I told him I already read your blog!

    Just another sign that I’m on the right path!

    Keep on posting…..cause I and so many look forward to what you have to say! Shannon

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. I emailed you last night that my friend Margo, who works with you I think, introduced me to your blog recently. I have almost read the whole thing! It’s amazing how similar our sons seem (mine is only almost 4 though). I also have an almost 2 year old (NT) son who has recently started talking up a storm! I have noticed when he (the younger one) really gets going my older son (with Autism, who can’t talk at all) gets REALLY upset. At first I just thought he didnt like us giving his brother attention, but recently I have been thinking that he gets upset because he is FRUSTRATED that his brother can talk and communicate and that he cannot. It breaks my heart for him. He hits himself and thrown tantrums and I really think its out of pure frustration.

  3. Hi Maggie,
    I apologize for the delay! Sweet dear Margo. Any friend of hers is a friend of mine. With all the differences amongst kiddos with autism, it is very interesting when you are able to see similarities isn’t it??
    Yes, the frustration of delayed verbal expression. That’s a tough one really. William progresses at a very slow rate with verbal expression. Still, progress is progress. It can also indicate that his (and yours possibly) receptive abilities are much higher. So, in turn, he understands much of what you say… directives, commands etc. but is unable to express it. Sometimes, the more they comprehend and are unable to express, the more frustrated they become… which, makes absolute sense doesn’t it?? How is he doing currently? I need to check out your blog and get acquainted with your littles.

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