Early childhood care

Hand Flapping: Is it normal? What are the possible red flags?

Usually hand flapping is seen to occur in toddlers or preschoolers. It more or less looks as if the kid’s waving his or her hands in a rapid motion. This happens at the wrist while keeping hold of the arms which are bent at the elbow.  You can relate more if you have seen a baby bird trying to fly off for the first time.

Hand flapping mostly occurs because of a heightened emotional state, like when they are anxious or excited. Beware, it can also happen if your kid is upset. The main reason which makes the parents  concerned is when they see the kid flapping his or her hands as it is one of the symptoms seen in autistic kids. 

Children suffering with autism flap their hands as a self-stimulatory behavior. Other self-satisfactory behaviors occasionally  seen in kids with autism comprise spinning and rocking. These behaviors tend to help these kids to calm themselves or regulate their emotional states. It is indeed extremely hard to divert an autistic kid away from their self-stimulatory behavior.

Can hand flapping be normal?

No doubt that Hand flapping can often be seen in children diagnosed with autism. But, it can also appear in normal children, usually for a few months, before it disappears. For this reason, it is difficult to use as a sign to diagnose autism.

Does this always mean autism?

Children who are in the typically-developing stage sometimes perform self-stimulating behaviors as well. Remember, just because your little one is flapping or performing any other self-stimulatory behaviors, it doesn’t always denote that he has autism.

Hand Flapping alone doesn’t have to be worrisome. These could be possible “red flags”

  1. Your child does not respond to their name by 12 months 
  2. He/She tries to avoid any eye-contact
  3. Preferring  to play alone rather than with other children
  4. Not sharing interests with others
  5. Only interacting to achieve a wanted goal
  6. Has flat or blunted facial expressions
  7. Doesn’t understand any boundaries relating to personal space 
  8. They have trouble understanding and responding to other people’s feelings or talking about their own

In addition to above mentioned , many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have bizarre interests or behaviors.

Such as:
  1. Lining up toys or other personal objects
  2. Playing with toys the exact same way each time
  3. Likes parts of objects (e.g., wheels)
  4. Is extremely organized
  5. Gets upset even by little changes
  6. Has obsessive interests
  7. Along with flapping hands, he/she rocks the body, or spins her/himself in circular motions

If your kid shows any of these  “difficulties” mentioned above, you should definitely get in touch with a pediatrician.


Kamakshi Anand
What people think, I create. Using my artistry, I shape their vision and this, gives me the perfect kick! Being a psychology degree holder, writing was always deeply rooted inside of me. Eventually, I started liking what I wrote and now I understand the essence of what's needed and pour those thoughts on paper!

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    1. amazing

    2. Nice blog

    3. Great information, would love to share this with my mommy friends!

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