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Autism

Stopping Oral Fixations in Autism

05/03/2007

Question:

My son is 8 years old with autism. Loves to chew and manipulate drinking straws. He picks them up everywhere and puts them into his mouth. He also eats pencils and erasers. Help?

Answer:

This kind of repetitive behavior is common in persons with autism. It is best dealt with through behavioral measures, often using a combination of methods such as:

Another effective strategy is to steer this behavior to a more socially and hygienically acceptable version. For example, you may prefer to bring your own drinking straw to assure that he has a sanitary one rather than one he finds on the floor or ground; you may prefer paper to plastic because it softens, breaks down and soon he has no straw left, limiting his time and interaction with the straw. Both of these options may be preferable to chewing on pencils or erasers.

Many parents try these methods and feel they aren’t successful, but this is often due to the fact that these methods do not work as quickly and easily as they do with non-autistic children. Persistence is important.

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Response by:

Daniel   Coury, MD Daniel Coury, MD
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University