We all know that emotional regulation can be tied to behavior such as hitting and pushing. It can be difficult for children who struggle with regulation to think before their body launches into a fight/flight response. However, let’s talk about some other issues that may be behind hitting and pushing and what you can do to support it.
Proprioception: this is the sense that tells us where we are in space. Since children are still developing this sense, it can cause some to push or hit-especially while in a line or crowded space. When there are many people around them, their body can get confused about boundaries and the child may push or hit to get people to move away from them.
Tactile defensiveness: this has to do with our sense of touch. When in a crowded space, there may be too many people that are touching their body, or that move into the child’s personal space. This can cause the child to push out their arms in order to create a boundary.
Visual processing: some children can be overloaded with visual information such as many people moving around them. This can trigger a fight or flight response which may include things like elopement, aggression, and more.
What can I do? Some good ideas for children who frequently push or hit in a classroom setting may be:
let the child be at the front or the rear of the line
let the child do a "job" while others line up (wipe down desks or even turn off lights)
let the child have a fidget tool while lining up
have the child work on some movements with their arms such as crawling, wall pushes, or push ups.
incorporate some balancing exercises
incorporate some visual processing exercises like ball throwing and catching