Self-Injurious Behaviors

By Karen Donnelly
Posted April 28, 2014

My son is just 4 year old. He was diagnosed with ASD a couple of year ago. When he is angry, he will bite himself and hit his stomach. What can I do to stop this behavior? Please help!


Answered:  May 13, 2014 by Dr. Sidney Baker

He bangs his head. She bites her wrists.  As parents, caretakers, siblings, teachers and doctors, we feel the pain of their self-injurious behaviors.  Still more, we feel embarrassed, even ashamed for having no answers or solutions to help.

My response to the question is just the start of a path to a set of options and is not meant to be Autism360’s single or best answer.  However, before I respond – first a bit of background about genetics. If you can't wait,

Here's my first answer about what to do for self-injurious behaviors:  understand your child’s environment.  When I say environment I mean the people, animals, chemicals, allergens, germs, stresses your child encounters and the food s/he eats.  Of all of these influences, food is the major factor.

First, change your child’s diet by eliminating sugars and starches.  Avoidance of starches and sugars is a good first step for people with all chronic illnesses.

The initial elimination of sugars and starches should not be considered as a treatment. It is merely a test, what I call a thumbs test: Try something for 20 days and see if it produces a response that is positive (thumbs-up), negative (thumbs down), no response at all (thumbs sideways), or a mixed response (one up one down).  If after 20 days you see a decline in your child’s self-injury behavior, the elimination then becomes a treatment.

This test will be a challenge to implement for a child who has become accustomed to having sweet things and could initially induce more self-abusive behaviors.  Therefore, you may need to insist on the cooperation of family members – especially grandparents – and the school.  You may need to find a three week period when you are completely in control in order to replace chips, sweets and sugary juices with carrots, spinach, nuts and other high-protein foods including egg and meet.  Milk products should also be avoided.

If possible, try to find a nutritionist who is knowledgeable in this field to help you. Other parents who have been down this road are also an important resource.

Other Resources:


Grain Brain by David Perlmutter MD.

The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now! by Mark Hyman MD.

Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall.

We Band of Mothers: Autism My Son & the Specific Carbohydrate Diet by Judy Chinitz and Sid Baker MD.

The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook, Updated and Revised: The Ultimate Guide to the Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet by Pamela Compart and Dana Laake.

Digestion Connection by Elizabeth Lipski PhD and Mark Hyman MD.

Telephone consultations can be arranged with Kelly Barnhill, CN, CNN (, Dana Laake, (,, and Vicki Kobliner, RD (vicki@holcarenutrition.com


SIR. Good morning. your remedy is fantastic. I know from my own experience. I have a 18 year old ADHD daughter. She was biting her hand and it has stopped; by her diet. Regards and have a nice day. Mohan

My Six years old son was diagnosed with ASD three years ago. For the last three years we have tried very intensive ABA trainings. However he moves forward very slow. Although being able to say couple of words he is still reluctant to communicate verbally. Despite this reluctance he knows number of poems and stories by heart. As we are from the Republic of Georgia where the experience for Autism treatment is very poor. I would like to have a chance to check the diagnose and get some new chance to try other methods. Could you please advise how to proceed? Which clinic do you consider to be more suitable for us. Thank you in advance