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Understanding Blank Stares in Autism: Symptoms of autism in infants

Updated: Aug 9, 2023


Symptoms of autism in infants

In this article, we're diving into a topic that many parents of children with autism are familiar with: blank stares. We'll explore the phenomenon of stimming, its role in sensory regulation, and how it relates to those moments of apparent unresponsiveness.


What is Stimming?

Stimming, short for self-stimulatory behavior, is a common behavior observed in individuals with autism. It involves repetitive actions or movements that help individuals regulate their sensory experiences. Blank stares can be one form of stimming.


Sensory Regulation and Stimming


Stimming plays a crucial role in sensory regulation for individuals with autism. Here's how it works:


1. Sensory Overload Children with autism may experience sensory overload due to heightened sensitivities to sights, sounds, or other stimuli in their environment.


Example: Imagine a child with autism visiting a busy amusement park. The noise, crowds, and bright lights can be overwhelming, leading to sensory overload.


2. Coping Mechanism Stimming behaviors, including blank stares, can act as a coping mechanism to manage sensory overload. They provide a way for individuals to block out overwhelming stimuli or create a calming effect.

Understanding Blank Stares


Blank stares or moments of apparent unresponsiveness can be a part of stimming behavior which is one of the symptoms of autism in infants. Here are a few reasons why children with autism may exhibit these behaviors:


1. Sensory Regulation Blank stares help children block out overwhelming sensory input and provide a sense of control over their environment.


Example: When faced with a loud and chaotic classroom environment, a child with autism may enter a blank stare state as a way to reduce sensory input and regulate their emotions.


2. Self-Soothing Stimming behaviors, including blank stares, serve as self-soothing mechanisms during stressful or overwhelming situations.


Example: If a child with autism is feeling anxious or stressed in a social gathering, they might engage in blank stares as a means of self-comfort and calming.


3. Emotional Regulation Blank stares may also help individuals with autism regulate their emotions and create a detached state when feeling anxious or overwhelmed.


Example: If a child with autism becomes upset or frustrated during a challenging task, they may resort to a blank stare to detach from the situation and regain emotional stability.


4. Intense Focus Sometimes, blank stares are a result of intense focus or fixation on specific stimuli or thoughts.


Example: A child with autism who has a special interest in trains might enter a blank stare while mentally engaging with train-related thoughts or visualizing train movements.



Supporting Children with Blank Stares


If you notice your child experiencing blank stares or engaging in stimming behavior, here are some strategies to consider:


1. Identify Triggers and Patterns

- Observe and note the situations or stimuli that precede the blank stares. It could be loud noises, crowded environments, or specific activities.

- Understanding triggers can help you create a supportive environment by minimizing or modifying those stimuli.


Example: If you notice that your child tends to enter a blank stare during noisy family gatherings, you can create a quiet space where they can retreat when needed.


2. Provide Sensory Breaks and Calming Activities

- Offer a quiet space or a sensory corner where your child can retreat when feeling overwhelmed.

- Include calming sensory tools such as weighted blankets, stress balls, or fidget toys to provide sensory input and promote self-regulation.


Example: If you see your child entering a blank stare after a long day at school, provide them with a cozy corner where they can relax with a weighted blanket and squeeze a stress ball to help them calm down.


3. Encourage Alternative Forms of Stimming

- Recognize that stimming is a natural behavior for individuals with autism and can be a helpful self-regulation mechanism.

- Encourage alternative, socially acceptable forms of stimming, such as squeezing a stress ball or tapping fingers gently.


Example: If your child tends to enter blank stares while twirling their hair, you can redirect that behavior to using a stress ball or fidget toy to satisfy their sensory needs.


4. Teach and Reinforce Communication Skills

- Help your child develop alternative ways to express their needs, feelings, and desires. This could include using visual supports, sign language, or AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) systems.

- Provide visual schedules, social stories, or emotion charts to enhance their communication skills and understanding of emotions.


Example: Use visual schedules to help your child communicate their daily routines, making it easier for them to understand and anticipate what comes next.


5. Seek Professional Support

- Consult with a qualified professional, such as a speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, or behavioral therapist.

- They can provide personalized strategies, interventions, and support tailored to your child's specific needs.


Example: Working with a speech-language pathologist can help your child develop effective communication strategies and reduce their reliance on blank stares."


Conclusion of symptoms of autism in infants


Understanding stimming and sensory regulation is essential in supporting individuals with autism. By recognizing the purpose of behaviors such as blank stares and implementing appropriate strategies, we can create an environment that fosters communication and emotional well-being for our loved ones with autism. Thank you, and we'll connect again in next blog!



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