Child Shaking Hands When Excited
Baby Toddler Safety

Child Shaking Hands When Excited

Toddlers and preschoolers are frequently seen flapping their hands.

When heightened emotionally, children flail their hands a lot. In most cases, parents get concerned when they see their child flapping their hands because it is an indication that they are autistic.

Could autism be a symptom of an intellectual disability? Here are the three most common symptoms: 

  • Late milestones.
  • A child with social anxiety.
  • A child who has difficulty communicating verbally or nonverbally.

To know more about child shaking when excited, keep reading!

Child Shaking Hands When Excited

When your child needs extra sensory input, he engages in self-stimulatory behaviors (also known as “stimming”).

Examples include hand flapping, rocking, biting himself, headbanging, or scratching themselves.

Kids use stimulations like hand flapping to calm down, soothe themselves, or regulate their bodies.

When a child is excited, nervous, anxious, or in any other kind of emotional state, it’s common to see them. Habitually, you may see them. 

The child appears to be waving their hands rapidly when they are hand flapping.

The entire arm of the child moves back and forth while the elbow stays bent. The wrists of the child flick back and forth as well.

First-time bird flyers may relate more if they have ever seen a baby bird fly for the first time. When anxious, excited, or upset, toddlers will flail their hands. 

The flapping of hands is a self-stimulatory behavior that children with autism display as part of their stims.

Children with autism may also occasionally spin and rock as self-stimulatory behaviors.

Autistic children tend to use these behaviors to calm themselves or to regulate their emotions.

Thus, children with autism tend to engage in self-stimulatory behaviors, which can be challenging to avoid.

1. How Does Hand Flapping Indicate Autism?

It does not necessarily mean that your child has autism if flapping or performing other self-stimulatory behaviors.

Children sometimes display self-stimulating behaviors in the developing stage, and every child can experience this, and it usually lasts a few months before vanishing.

In the ideal scenario, hand flapping would be outgrown by the child’s third birthday.

Just because your baby flaps their hands doesn’t mean you should worry. In addition to hand flapping, these other behaviors can be red flags:

  • When your child is 12 months old, they are not responding to their name 
  • Avoiding eye contact is their primary goal
  • Rather than play with other children, preferring to play alone
  • Having different interests

2. Flapping And Self-Stimulation Behaviors: What Causes Them?

Children with autism often display self-stimulating behaviors in addition to those with sensory-processing disorders.

Children who display these behaviors may also be typical development.

The mere fact that your child flails or engages in self-stimulatory behaviors does not indicate that they have autism.

It’s common for people to think of an autistic child when they see a child rocking or flapping. 

That’s not always the case, though. Even children without disorders can exhibit these behaviors due to unmet sensory needs.

In adults, self-stimulatory behavior is expected.

Finding alternative ways to meet your child’s sensory needs may help your child stop flapping and other self-stimulatory behaviors.

Also see: Babies Shaking Head Back And Forth

3. When To Worry About Hand Flapping

People often associate hand flapping with only autism, but that is not the case.

When children are experiencing high levels of emotion, such as when anxious, excited, or upset, they may exhibit hands flapping behavior.

Hand flapping has been assumed to be a self-stimulatory behavior exhibited by children with autism, which can also be accompanied by other stimming behaviors like rocking and spinning. 

Children with autism often have an extremely heightened sensitivity to certain sounds and sensations that do not affect others.

People with autism and even those without the disorder can feel distressed when multiple sounds, loud noises, and crowds are present.

A person flapping their hands is thought to be escaping from overstimulating sensory input from their surroundings.


Probably now you have the possible reasons for child shaking hands when excited.

Vestibular stimming is a form of hand flapping.

When children display this behavior, they may be feeling strong emotions, such as excitement about playing a game.

Those who experience overwhelming anxiety may also use this behavior as a means of self-soothing.

Related Posts:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it possible for a child to Stim and not be autistic?

An individual who is stimming does not necessarily have autism, ADHD, or other neurological differences.

However, stimulation, like headbanging or frequent stimming, appears more common when developmental or neurological differences occur.

Is it normal for an arm to flail when excited?

Occasionally, a child flapping her arms or hands is not necessarily autistic, even if she often exhibits these behaviors.

For example, when children are excited, they often flap their arms and hands.

How long does stimming last?

When babies and toddlers are young, they engage in self-stimulating behaviors; however, as they mature, these behaviors decline and are replaced by other activities (playing with toys and having social interactions, for example).

Stimulating behavior can also occur in adults.

Mo Mulla

Mo Mulla is a work from home dad who enjoys reading and listening to music, He loves being a dad and husband to a growing family. He also loves writing about his passions and hopes to change the world, 1 blog post at a time!

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