Helmet-wearing does more than just protect autistic children prone to self-injurious behaviour.
About half of the children with autism will have behavioural disorders which may include self-injurious behaviour. To prevent them causing serious harm to themselves, some of these children may wear a protective helmet. Sensory processing challenges may be one of many causative factors for their behaviour. When considered from a sensory perspective, as well as protecting the child’s head a helmet has the potential to regulate their behaviour through altering the child's sensory experience.
Occupational Therapy Principal Lecturer Rita Robinson and Master's student Susan McGlade researched the effects of helmet-wearing on the children's activities (occupational engagement). They interviewed two parents of such children, exploring differences in the children's behaviour before and after the helmet was used.
Both parents reported improvement in their child's relationships with other members of the family, and being able to leave their child occasionally with someone else enabled other family members to have more normal relationships and activities. Being calmer and having longer attention spans also meant the children engaged more in everyday activities and they were better able to learn. The parents felt that helmet use was not just protective; it had helped their child's behaviour and was also good for the whole family.
Image credit: Abhisek Sarda, sourced from Flickr, used under Creative Commons Attribultion licence CC BY 2.0