Hi All, Newbie here! Needs Advice.

My son is 3 years old and was diagnosed with Autism back in April. He is currently receiving 20 hours of ABA along with OT & Speech therapy. My son clearly has sensory issues and I was wondering if any of you experienced your child grinding their teeth and chewing on their clothing. My son has been doing this for months and I talked to this OT about it and all she suggested was to give her sugarless gum (which he won't even put near his mouth) and then she claimed she would work on some oral exercises with him, I haven't seen improvement. The grinding and the chewing on the clothing seem to be getting worse. I read about a possible chew toy but I am not sure how effective they are. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

[Updated on 9/23/2013 4:29 PM]
  • Have you investigated dietary support; a lot of behaviors can be eliminated with nutritional support and identification of incompatible foods.
  • LandonsMommy, anybody can say anything on the internet. I suggest that you be careful and critical when receiving advice online.

    Jahki, a long-timer on this site, usually recommends dietary interventions, despite their lack of supporting scientific evidence, so I am not surprised to see Jahki make such a recommendation here. Jahki's statement of "a lot of behaviors can be eliminated with nutritional support and identification of incompatible foods" is Jahki's own belief - it is not a widely accepted or scientifically verified statement.

    LandonsMommy, the behavior you mention is a very common behavior of autistic children. As a behavior analyst working with autistic kids for nearly a decade, I have worked with many kids with such behaviors. ABA programs often target such behaviors, and successfully. There is a large amount of scientific research supporting the usage of ABA to reduce oral behaviors of concern. Your ABA provider should be targeting this behavior. I suggest you bring it to their attention. Ideally, the OT and ABA provider should be working together on this issue, but, if the OT is impotent, the ABA provider should have the ability to reduce the behavior without consulting with the OT.

    Behaviorally speaking, your child has developed a need to experience oral pressure. He has discovered that chewing on clothes and grinding his teeth provides him the pressure he seeks. He has learned these behaviors. What needs to happen is that he needs to be taught new, and healthier, ways of getting his pressure need met. This can be done by giving him new ways to meet the need, such as chewing on a chew toy, and then REINFORCING (rewarding) his usage of the new method. Giving him gum or a toy will likely not be enough, because he will choose to stick to his usual method (grinding and clothes) of meeting his pressure need and not switch to the new method. But if you give him incentive to use the new method then he will make the switch, because not only will the new method meet his pressure need but it will also have extra benefits attached. In addition, you should stop him from using the old method if he engages in it. This way, the old method will fail him and will become a pain in the butt, because you will keep interrupting him when he engages in it. But the new method will not be stopped and will have great reward, so he will switch over to the new method. There are additional interventions that can be added on to the plan as well, but those are secondary so I won't get into them here.

    Please note that I am only giving you a brief and general summary here, and it is for your informational usage. You should not implement any behavior analytic intervention without the appropriate supervision of a qualified behavior analyst. There is more detail to how to successfully implement the above intervention, which is beyond what I can type out here. I am confident that if your ABA provider properly intervenes on the oral behavior, that the behavior can be reduced and modified.

    Also, the behavior analytic intervention appears to me to be much easier and quicker to implement than a dietary intervention. Even if there was evidence supporting a dietary intervention, the work, time, and money, to implement such an intervention would significantly exceed that of the behavior analytic intervention.
  • Eh, just to clarify, the chew toy is a good idea, but it will likely need to be used together with a behavior analytic plan in order to be effective.
  • Landonsmommy you are in a great position your son is only 3 so you should definately get online & check all the dietary advise. Is your son a picky eater if so make sure you change that while you have the chance. He will not be getting enough vitamins & minerals if he isn't eating a balanced diet, & perhaps he will always need extra supplements to deal with this. www.gapsaustralia.com.au has a lot of advise on this issue & they have a great book to help you understand why your son is behaving like this. You don't have to live in Australia to follow this advise. Once these issues are addressed many things like speech suddenly improve. Keep your mind open to what's going on now as there is so much research on the effects of leaky gut etc on autism.
  • Dave dietary intervention is first and foremost with autism and doesn't conflict with any other interventions or treatments. However if dietary requirements are ignore then the rest of it pretty pointless. Children need to be in a healthy state to have clarity and most spectrum children have malabsorption issues which cause psychological, emotional and physical problems.
  • I broke Autumn of shirt chewing with a swimming pool splash toy attached to a keychain. She will hopefully outgrow the teeth grinding before her adult teeth come in.
  • food intolerances can be present in anyone at anytime. they can cause many neurological conditions and symptoms. this can be said of people on or off the spectrum. I take the elimination before supplementation approach.
  • "Once these issues are addressed many things like speech suddenly improve."

    That statement is a belief, and not scientifically validated or widely accepted.

    "Dave dietary intervention is first and foremost with autism"

    Says you. That's your belief. It is not a widely accepted or scientifically validated claim.

    "However if dietary requirements are ignore then the rest of it pretty pointless."

    Your statement has been proven by vast research to be false. ABA, without dietary intervention, has the highest success rate of any autism intervention.

    "most spectrum children have malabsorption issues which cause psychological, emotional and physical problems"

    That's your belief. It is not a widely accepted or scientifically validated claim.

    "I broke Autumn of shirt chewing with a swimming pool splash toy attached to a keychain."

    Christine, did you do that with a dietary intervention?

    [Updated on 9/24/2013 12:54 AM]
  • Oh well Dave...you stick to your Mac burgers,ice creams and lollies; sooner or later, AS or not, you're body will go into toxic shock and then you'll have to eat your words.. :) pun intended :)
  • Gee Jahki, I don't recall ever stating or implying that I eat such items or that anyone else, autistic or not, should eat such items.
  • Nope no dietary intervention here. The chew toy I made was replaced by the shirt ABA style with blocking the shirt chewing. I hooked the stretchy key chain on her shirt collar right where she chewed it. Worked great. I can try and post a picture of it later. But she doesn't chew her shirt EVER now. I've completely eradicated the behavior. Newbie ABA should be your first priority. All other therapies play second fiddle.
  • Well Dave, I don't see why not if food doesn't make any difference, and I don't know why you always put ABA in competition with all other suggestions ;it isn't a case of either / or. especially in relation to nutrition. People on the autistic spectrum are hypersensitive and that sensitivity translates to most aspect of their lives, including and especially the food that sustains them .

    Scientific data is not required to support this obvious fact,;most people on the spectrum or who have dependents on the spectrum notice a difference for themselves or their dependents wihen nutritional support is included in the repertoire of care required to help provide a comfortable environment and improved quality of life

    Christine you keep your children on a very healthy and natural diet, perhaps thats all thats needed for them, but for some of us, our ability to function depends on more easily absorbed nutrition. I need food suppliments and am very unwell if I don't stay on a restricted diet and my son nearly died when he decided he could live on the same food that his friends were eating.
  • Please take note of what happened to me some time age. Word came back to me that a member of Lions International was claiming that I, a member of Lions International, was interfering with young children. I objected through our Lions Club International and I received no support from any of our members personally. So I resigned. Later a member who was president resigned because of the way they treated me. All of the surrounding Lions Club International clubs said to me that my Lions International Club should not have taken such action against me.
    I have had a lot to do with children and have never been charged with any offence. I was a member of the Lions International for about twenty years.
    Please what do you think of what has happened to me.
    Oh !!! A member of the Lions International prevented me from joining another Sporting Club in which I have been a member. Thank you.
  • Well actually I have used ABA to help kids explore new food textures and eat a better variety of foods. The ABA clinic my twins go to does feeding therapy too. So in a sense it isn't an either or proposition. But if you have a young child and have access to ABA...USE IT BECAUSE IT WILL GIVE YOUR CHILD THE MOST HELP. It offers the most comprehensive set of therapies specifically designed for autism.