Mental health

At a glance

Self-harm in children with autism and intellectual disability

Lead researcher

Dr Caroline Richards


University of Birmingham



Amount awarded


Last updated



Self-harm, such as biting, scratching, head banging and body punching, occurs at very high rates in children with autism and intellectual disability (ID). As many as one in two children with autism and ID will self-harm, and in most cases this behaviour persists beyond childhood.

Dr Caroline Richards' research will investigate two potential causes or drivers of self-harm in children with autism and ID. The first is problems with stopping and starting certain behaviours, otherwise known as inhibition. The second potential cause is poor sleep, and the researchers will investigate whether this leads to more frequent and more severe self-harm.

These findings will inform interventions for self-harm, with sleep and inhibition as new, preventative intervention targets.

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