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How to Help an Autistic Child to Stop Spitting

by Shellie Braeuner, studioD

Autistic spectrum disorders are a series of behavioral and processing challenges that affect each person differently. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that some children are only moderately affected while others face profound difficulties. One of the common behaviors found among autistic children is issues with spitting. The child might spit on other people, drool on himself or toys, or play with or smear saliva on objects or people. Stopping this behavior as early as possible helps the child connect with others.

Take the child to a dentist or pediatrician to rule out any biological reason for spitting or drooling.

Find out why the child is spitting. The CDC states that children suffering from autism spectrum disorder often have unusual reactions to normal circumstances. The child might be looking for a reaction from the adults around him. He might spit as a way to keep people away when he feels overwhelmed. He might like to play with or smear saliva because he likes the way it feels. Or he might be completely unaware that he is drooling or spitting.

Give the child something that encourages her to keep the spit in her mouth. Behavioral specialists at the National Autistic Society suggest that a small candy or other flavorful object that she enjoys might stop the behavior. When she drops the spit out of her mouth, she loses the flavor.

Ignore the child who tries to get attention for spitting. Look away and refuse eye contact. Behavioral specialists at the National Autistic Society encourage caregivers to play this behavior down as much as possible. If the child is calm, distract him with another activity before washing the spittle away.

Give the child something else to do with her hands instead of playing with spittle. Try finger paints or water play. The National Autistic Society suggests rewarding the child when she has gone five minutes without spitting. Gradually increase the time until the child no longer spits.

Tell the child what to do instead of what not to do. Instead of telling the child to stop spitting, ask the child to wipe his face. The Autism Project of Illinois suggests that this gives emphasis to the positive action rather than the negative one.

Items you will need
  •  Candy

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.

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