Should You Stop An Autistic Child Rocking?

Written By Autism Parents

A collection of parents navigating our way around raising children with autism

Should You Stop An Autistic Child Rocking?

Being a parent in our position raises many difficult questions such as should you stop your autistic child rocking?

As ever we will try to guide you through this tricky conundrum from a sympathetic standpoint.

Stopping an autistic child rocking

As a parent, watching your child engage in repetitive behaviors like rocking can be sometimes concerning.

I personally remember when our son started spinning, for me it was that realisation of quite how visible this behaviour was.

How would he ever fit in if all he wanted to do was spin wherever we went?

For children on the autism spectrum, these behaviours, known as stimming, are quite common.

Rocking, in particular, can be a source of comfort, stress relief, or sensory input for autistic kids.

If you’re wondering whether you should stop your child from rocking, it’s essential to approach this question with an open mind.

Should you stop an autistic child rocking?
Should you stop an autistic child rocking? It depends…

Reasons behind the rocking

Firstly, it’s crucial to recognise that rocking can integral to how autistic children experience and cope with the world.

Rocking can indeed serve multiple purposes:

Sensory Regulation: Rocking can help regulate sensory input in an environment that feels overwhelming or understimulating.

Soothing: It can be a calming mechanism during times of anxiety, stress, or excitement.

Expressing Emotions: Sometimes, rocking is a way for autistic children to express their emotions, especially when verbal communication is challenging.

Understanding that rocking is not just a habit but a coping mechanism is key in empathising with your child’s needs.

When should you worry about an autistic child rocking?

While rocking is generally harmless, there are situations where it might warrant further attention or intervention.

When it causes harm

Possibly guilty of stating the obvious here but there may be times when rocking can be dangerous.

If rocking leads to self-injury or poses a safety risk, it’s clearly important to intervene to protect your child.

An example could be if they were perched on the edge of a sofa with a hard floor below.

Or it could be that they are rocking close to a table corner where they could easily bang their head.

The point we’re making here is that your child may be unaware of dangers surrounding them.

You’re likely to be doing this already but just a reminder that sometimes you have to be their eyes and ears.

If it’s interfering with their development

If the rocking behaviour significantly interferes with daily activities, learning, or social interactions you may want to step in.

This scenario isn’t quite as cut and dry as the danger situation about however. As we mentioned above, rocking may be a coping mechanism in many ways for your child.

My point here is that if it is really impacting your child on a day to day basis, consider intervening.

Professional guidance can help in finding alternative coping strategies.

Allowing an autistic child to rock

Rather than attempting to stop the behaviour, consider these mitigating approaches:

Create an area specifically for rocking

One tactic to consider would be to ensure that your child’s rocking is safe by having some control.

This might involve providing a comfortable and secure place to sit or rock.

Or you could purchase apparatus to help them rock in a safe manner. Here are some popular choices on Amazon, rocking seat & a wobble cushion.

Learn their triggers

Observe when and why your child rocks.

Is it during specific times of the day, in particular environments, or in response to certain emotions?

Once armed with this information you can set a plan to distract or otherwise appease your child.

Communicate with your child

Depending on their level of communication and understanding, explain your concerns regarding their rocking.

It’s important to talk to your child about their rocking in a non-judgmental way.

Use distractions

Introduce sensory toys or tools, like stress balls or fidget spinners, that might offer a similar sense of comfort or stimulation.

Weighted blankets can also provide autistic children with sensory feedback they may crave.

Physical activity

Consider encouraging physical activities that provide sensory feedback, such as jumping on a trampoline or swimming.

Live a routined life

If the rocking is in response to anxiety, consider keeping a strict routine where possible.

Maintaining a predictable structure can reduce anxiety and the need for self-soothing behaviours.

Bring in the professionals

If you’re concerned about your child’s rocking or other behaviours, don’t hesitate to seek advice from professionals who specialise in autism.

They can offer personalised strategies and support based on your child’s specific needs.

Occupational therapists, in particular, can be instrumental in providing sensory integration therapy or other interventions.

Summary – Should you stop an autistic child rocking?

Although it is a simple question, unfortunately there is no one size fits all answer.

Remember, autistic children, like all children, need acceptance and understanding.

Rocking is a natural part of how many autistic kids interact with their world.

By approaching your child’s behaviour with empathy and seeking to understand their needs, you can provide the support and love they need to thrive.

In your journey as a parent, it’s not just about guiding your child but also learning and growing with them.

Embracing their uniqueness, including their unique behaviors like rocking, is a testament to your unconditional support.

Any tips or ideas?

We would love to hear from you if you have got any techniques or ideas for our readers to try.

Be sure to leave a comment if any of the above has helped or if you have any ideas we can add to this article.

Also be sure to search for any other articles you might find helpful.

Try for example searching below for topics like ‘meltdown’ or ‘communication’.

About the author

A collection of parents navigating our way around raising children with autism.

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