Self Harming - The Play Doctors

Self harm is an important subject and cannot be covered by a
single information sheet. Neither can it be dealt with on your
own. If you are concerned about a child or young person take
advice from professionals.

Identify why the child is hurting themselves

Could it be:


  • Attention seeking
  • Seeking sensory input
  • Frustration
  • Reaction to too much stimulation
  • Pain or other medical reason i.e. epilepsy
  • Expressing an emotion
  • Learnt behaviour
  • Mental health issues
  • A response to abuse

Strategies and Responses


  • Your response has to be based on your professional judgment, knowledge, understanding and background situation. If you are aware of an underlying impairment where the behaviour is symptomatic of the condition; work within the guidelines provided to you by parents and professionals or within the child’s care plan.
  • Respond quickly and use a consistent approach. If the child is harming
    themselves it is important to stop the behaviour, but more important to find out
    the underlying reasons as the behaviour will re-occur when you are not around
    to stop it.
  • Create a good communication system with the child so you can ask why they
    are hurting themselves. Be aware of the comments above, seek advice if you
    are unsure how to respond.
  • Reduce sensory stimuli that might be upsetting the child
  • Provide safe sensory opportunities that may allow the child to experience a
    similar sensory experience without harming themselves for instance biting a
    chew bangle
  • Follow child’s behaviour management plan (if there is one)
  • Identify when and where it happens, remove the child from these situations
  • Use distraction techniques or encourage physical exercise
  • Praise good behaviour
Online Resources and Support Articles