How to Control Spitting in a 4-Year-Old Who Has Autism

Your child feels the need to spit it out, and you need him to cut it out! The behaviors often associated with a child who has been diagnosed with autism can be frustrating and may seem unmanageable at times. As if the tantrums, hitting and biting were not enough, now your child is spitting. Yes, the act of spitting is unpleasant and is therefore considered to be socially unacceptable, however you are not alone. Spitting is actually a commonly seen behavior among parents of children who have been diagnosed with autism. But don’t worry…help is on the way to put an end to this trying behavior.

  1. Consider the reasons that your child may be spitting. Understanding why she displays a behavior is half the battle in finding a solution. The five W’s – who, what, when, where and why -- can help to establish the factors that contribute to the spitting. Who is present when the spitting occurs? What events are taking place around her? When does the spitting generally occur? A little detective work can go a long way! It may be helpful to record your thoughts and findings in a journal. Documenting the behavior will help you to identify patterns in the behavior, and journaling will give you an opportunity to vent. Use the information you collect to alter the factors that seem to be the highest contributors to the behavior.

  1. Create a social story to address the spitting. A social story is a short tale, including visual aids, that is created to address a specific life skill, as it pertains to a specific child. It should be pretty more than a few pages. Include appropriate ways in which your child can use his mouth, such as eating, talking and kissing, while also mentioning that spitting is not an acceptable way to use his mouth. Incorporate relevant information about your child into the customized story. Include his favorite characters, activities and colors to engage him. If he love superheroes, it can show a superhero using his mouth in an appropriate manner. Now your child sees his role model doing the right thing. (Cross your fingers that he wants to be just like his role model.) Be patient though. Children generally need to see a social story multiple times before the message is understood.

  1. Redirect your child to a behavior that is appropriate. Redirecting a behavior does not mean ignoring a behavior. Instead, let her know that spitting is not okay while providing her with an alternate activity. Something as simple as a drink of water or a piece of gum may do the trick. If the spitting is believed to be related to a sensory need, encourage an activity that will give her the sensory release she needs. Squishy toys, time on a trampoline or an alternate setting for a few minutes are some promising ideas for taking her mind off of continuous spitting. As tough as it is, be consistent when redirecting your child. You do not want to send a message that it is okay to spit some days, but not others.

  2. Warnings

    Spitting is a behavior that may be the result of a medical issue. If you suspect that the spitting is medically related, consult a physician for medical advice.

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