Autism Hand Posturing: Causes, Types, and Treatment Options

In this article, we will explore the causes of autism hand posturing, the different types of postures, and some treatment options that may help reduce this behavior.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
January 10, 2024
min read

Understanding Autism Hand Posturing

In order to shed light on autism hand posturing, it is important to have a clear understanding of what it entails and the various types associated with autism.

What is Autism Hand Posturing?

Autism hand posturing refers to repetitive and often stereotypical hand movements or gestures that individuals with autism may engage in. These movements can be characterized by specific patterns and may serve different purposes for each individual.

Autism hand posturing behaviors are often self-stimulatory or self-soothing in nature. They can involve a wide range of hand movements, such as flapping, wiggling, wrapping, or tapping. These behaviors may occur in various contexts and can be observed across different age groups.

Types of Hand Posturing Associated with Autism

There are several types of hand posturing commonly associated with autism. It's important to note that these behaviors can vary in frequency and intensity among individuals with autism. Here are some of the most commonly observed hand posturing behaviors:

Type of Hand Posturing Description
Hand Flapping This involves repetitive and rapid opening and closing of the hands. It often occurs at the wrists and may be accompanied by excitement or sensory stimulation.
Finger Wiggling Finger wiggling refers to the repetitive movement of the fingers, often involving flexing and extending them rapidly. This behavior may be performed individually or in coordination with other hand movements.
Hand Wrapping Hand wrapping involves the act of wrapping one hand around the other, with the fingers interlaced. This behavior is often seen as a way to self-soothe or provide sensory input.
Hand Tapping Hand tapping refers to the repetitive tapping of the fingers or hand against a surface, such as a table or one's own body. This behavior can serve as a means of self-stimulation or as a way to regulate emotions.

Understanding the different types of hand posturing associated with autism is essential for parents and caregivers. It allows them to recognize and gain insights into their child's behaviors, enabling them to provide appropriate support and intervention strategies.

In the following sections, we will explore possible reasons for hand posturing in autism and discuss ways to address and support individuals with autism who engage in hand posturing behaviors.

Free Girl Playing With Wooden Helicopter Toy Stock Photo

Common Hand Posturing Behaviors

Hand posturing is a common characteristic observed in individuals with autism. These repetitive and often stereotypical movements serve various purposes and can provide insights into a person's sensory, emotional, and communicative needs. In this section, we will explore some of the common hand posturing behaviors associated with autism.

Hand Flapping

Hand flapping is one of the most recognizable hand posturing behaviors seen in individuals with autism. It involves rapid and repetitive movements of the hands, typically with the fingers extended and the wrists flexed. Hand flapping may occur when a person is excited, anxious, or overwhelmed. It can serve as a way to self-stimulate, release energy, or regulate sensory input.

Finger Wiggling

Finger wiggling, also known as finger flicking or finger twirling, refers to the repetitive movement of one or more fingers. This behavior is characterized by rapid and rhythmic flexion and extension of the fingers. Finger wiggling can be a form of self-stimulation, providing sensory input and promoting self-regulation. It may occur in response to heightened sensory sensitivity or as a way to express excitement or anxiety.

Hand Wrapping

Hand wrapping, also called hand clenching or hand squeezing, involves the repetitive action of clasping one hand over the other, often with interlocking fingers. This behavior is characterized by sustained pressure and tension in the hands. Hand wrapping can serve as a self-soothing mechanism, providing a sense of comfort and security. It may also occur as a response to anxiety, stress, or sensory overload.

Hand Tapping

Hand tapping refers to the repetitive tapping or drumming of the fingers or hands on surfaces, such as tables, walls, or objects. This behavior involves rhythmic and purposeful movements, often producing audible sounds. Hand tapping can serve as a way to regulate sensory input, release tension, or express excitement. It may also be a form of self-stimulation or a means of seeking auditory feedback.

Understanding these common hand posturing behaviors in autism can help parents and caregivers gain insight into their child's needs and provide appropriate support. It's essential to approach these behaviors with understanding and create an environment that promotes acceptance and inclusion. By addressing the underlying sensory, emotional, and communicative needs, parents can develop strategies to support their child's overall well-being and development.

Possible Reasons for Hand Posturing in Autism

Autism hand posturing, also known as hand stereotypies, refers to repetitive and purposeless movements of the hands often seen in individuals with autism. While the exact causes of hand posturing in autism are not fully understood, there are several possible reasons that may contribute to this behavior. These reasons include sensory stimulation and regulation, self-calming and emotional regulation, as well as communication and expression.

Sensory Stimulation and Regulation

For some individuals with autism, hand posturing may serve as a way to seek sensory stimulation or regulate sensory input. Engaging in repetitive hand movements can offer a comforting and predictable sensory experience, helping to regulate their sensory systems. By controlling the sensory input they receive through their hands, individuals with autism may find a sense of calm or focus.

Self-Calming and Emotional Regulation

Hand posturing can also be a self-calming mechanism for individuals with autism. The repetitive movements may help them cope with overwhelming emotions or anxiety. Engaging in hand posturing behaviors can provide a sense of control and comfort, allowing them to self-soothe and regulate their emotions. It's important to note that hand posturing should not be seen as inherently negative or disruptive, as it can serve as a beneficial coping strategy for individuals with autism.

Communication and Expression

Hand posturing in autism can also be a form of communication and expression. Nonverbal individuals or those with limited verbal skills may use hand posturing as a way to communicate their needs, desires, or emotions. It can serve as a means of self-expression and can potentially convey information or convey a message to others. By understanding and interpreting the unique hand posturing behaviors of individuals with autism, parents and caregivers can better support their communication needs.

Understanding the possible reasons behind hand posturing in autism can help parents and caregivers develop effective strategies to address and support their child's needs. By seeking professional evaluation and guidance, developing individualized strategies, and providing support and understanding, parents can create a nurturing environment that promotes the well-being of their child with autism.

Addressing Hand Posturing in Autism

When it comes to addressing hand posturing in individuals with autism, it is essential to seek professional evaluation and guidance, develop individualized strategies, and provide support and understanding. By taking these steps, parents can better understand and support their child's unique needs.

Seeking Professional Evaluation and Guidance

If you notice hand posturing behaviors in your child with autism, it is recommended to seek professional evaluation and guidance. A healthcare professional, such as a pediatrician or a developmental specialist, can provide a comprehensive assessment to determine the underlying factors contributing to the hand posturing. They can also rule out any other medical conditions or developmental concerns.

By obtaining a professional evaluation, you gain valuable insights into your child's specific challenges and strengths. This evaluation can guide you in making informed decisions and developing appropriate strategies to address the hand posturing behaviors.

Developing Individualized Strategies

Once you have sought professional evaluation and received guidance, the next step is to develop individualized strategies to address the hand posturing behaviors in your child with autism. Each individual with autism is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Therefore, it is important to tailor the strategies to meet your child's specific needs.

Working closely with professionals, such as occupational therapists or behavior analysts, can help you develop effective strategies. These strategies may involve providing alternative sensory activities, introducing adaptive tools or toys, or incorporating visual supports. The goal is to provide your child with appropriate outlets for sensory stimulation and self-regulation.

Remember, patience and consistency are key when implementing these strategies. It may take time for your child to adjust and for the strategies to have a positive impact. Regular communication with professionals can help monitor progress and make necessary adjustments as needed.

Providing Support and Understanding

Support and understanding are crucial for both the child with autism and their parents. Hand posturing behaviors are often a way for individuals with autism to cope with sensory overload, stress, or anxiety. It is important to approach these behaviors with empathy and without judgment.

By providing a supportive and accepting environment, you can help your child feel understood and valued. Encourage open communication and actively listen to their needs and concerns. Engage in activities that promote their interests and strengths, fostering a sense of self-confidence and connection.

Additionally, seek support from local autism support groups, online communities, or parent support networks. These platforms can provide a space for sharing experiences, gathering insights, and finding emotional support from others who may have faced similar challenges.

By seeking professional evaluation and guidance, developing individualized strategies, and providing support and understanding, parents can play a pivotal role in addressing hand posturing behaviors in their child with autism. Remember, every child is unique, and progress may vary. Celebrate small victories and focus on the overall well-being and development of your child.

Supporting Your Child with Autism

As a parent of a child with autism, it is important to provide the necessary support and understanding to help them navigate their daily lives. Here are three key strategies to support your child with autism: creating a sensory-friendly environment, encouraging alternative coping mechanisms, and promoting communication and social skills.

Creating a Sensory-Friendly Environment

Children with autism often have sensory sensitivities and may find certain stimuli overwhelming or distressing. Creating a sensory-friendly environment can help reduce these challenges and create a more comfortable space for your child. Consider the following strategies:

  • Sensory considerations: Minimize bright lights, loud noises, and strong smells. Use soft lighting, soothing music, and calming scents if they are well-tolerated.
  • Structured routines: Establish predictable routines and schedules to provide a sense of stability and reduce anxiety.
  • Safe spaces: Designate a quiet, safe space where your child can retreat when they need a break or feel overwhelmed.
  • Visual supports: Use visual schedules, social stories, and visual cues to enhance communication and support understanding.

By making these adjustments, you can help create an environment that supports your child's sensory needs and promotes their overall well-being.

Encouraging Alternative Coping Mechanisms

Instead of focusing solely on reducing hand posturing behaviors, it is beneficial to encourage alternative coping mechanisms that can help your child manage their emotions and sensory experiences. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Deep pressure techniques: Provide your child with deep pressure input through activities such as weighted blankets, deep pressure massages, or using compression clothing.
  • Fidget tools: Offer a variety of fidget tools, such as stress balls or chewable toys, that can help redirect their need for sensory stimulation.
  • Physical activities: Engage your child in physical activities that promote body awareness and sensory integration, such as yoga, swimming, or trampoline exercises.
  • Visual supports: Utilize visual supports, such as visual schedules or social stories, to facilitate understanding and reduce anxiety in various situations.

By encouraging alternative coping mechanisms, you can empower your child to manage their sensory needs in a more adaptive and self-regulated manner.

Promoting Communication and Social Skills

Effective communication and social skills are vital for individuals with autism to navigate social interactions and build meaningful connections. Here are a few strategies to promote these skills:

  • Speech and language therapy: Consider enrolling your child in speech and language therapy to enhance their communication abilities and address any speech difficulties they may have.
  • Social skills training: Engage your child in social skills training programs or groups where they can learn and practice appropriate social behaviors and interactions.
  • Visual aids: Use visual supports, such as social stories or visual cues, to help your child understand and navigate social situations.
  • Playdates and social outings: Encourage opportunities for your child to engage in social activities with peers, such as playdates or participation in community programs.

By supporting your child's communication and social skills development, you can enhance their ability to connect with others and thrive in social settings.

Remember, every child with autism is unique, and it is important to tailor your support strategies to their individual needs. Consulting with professionals, such as occupational therapists or speech and language pathologists, can provide valuable guidance and personalized recommendations. With patience, understanding, and the right support, you can help your child with autism navigate their world with confidence and success.


Is autism hand posturing harmful to the individual with autism?

In most cases, autism hand posturing is not harmful to the individual with autism. However, excessive or prolonged hand posturing may result in physical discomfort or pain.

Can autism hand posturing be a sign of other conditions besides autism?

Yes, repetitive hand movements or postures can be seen in individuals with other developmental or neurological conditions, such as ADHD or Tourette's syndrome. However, if you are concerned that your loved one may have another condition besides autism, it is important to consult a healthcare professional.

At what age do individuals with autism typically start engaging in hand posturing behaviors?

Hand posturing behaviors can start as early as infancy in some cases. However, these behaviors are most commonly observed between the ages of 2 and 6.

Can medication completely eliminate the need for hand posturing behavior?

No, medication alone cannot completely eliminate the need for hand posturing behavior. Medication may help reduce anxiety or other symptoms that contribute to the behavior, but behavioral therapies and sensory integration therapies are often necessary for long-term reduction of this behavior.

Is it okay to try to stop an individual with autism from engaging in hand posturing behavior altogether?

While it may be tempting to try and stop an individual from engaging in this behavior altogether, it is important to remember that this behavior serves a purpose for them. Instead of trying to eliminate it entirely, focus on reducing its frequency and duration through therapy and other treatment options.


Autism hand posturing is a common behavior among individuals with autism and is believed to be related to sensory processing issues. While there is no cure for this behavior, there are treatment options that may help reduce it.

If you have a loved one with autism who engages in hand posturing, it is important to talk to their healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment. Remember, every individual with autism is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another.


steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

Table of Contents