Autism Information & Research
Archived Q&A Sessions
Topic: Issues with Chewing
With regards to chewing, if we imagine that this chewing is a repetitive, exclusive behavior or an “ism”, then we would want to “go with” and “join” his ism, as long as he feels a need to do it. This can be very, very varied in children. Some parents ism with their children (chewing, rocking, playing with a particular toy) all day for many days, and then these behaviors begin to diminish. Sometimes, they diminish rapidly and completely. Sometimes they disappear, and then only return occasionally. Sometimes, a child may continue to do their ism but for different periods of time. Every child and program is different. For example, we have seen a program where the child had an “ism” of lining up blocks. The family joined their child for months, and this behavior began to decrease and finally disappeared. This did not happen overnight. Rather, the child began to take longer and longer breaks between isming. So, I would strongly suggest that you do this “ism” with your child whenever they do it. If your child does it for an hour, you do it for an hour. If your child does it only for 10 minutes, you only do it for 10 minutes. Especially now that you are finding (s)he is interacting more, it is that much more important that (s)he knows that you will still “be there” with him/her when (s)he feels they must “ism”.
You can also begin now to prepare activities or games that you know you would want to play with your child. When (s)he stops “isming” and is looking for something else to do, or when (s)he takes a break in their “ism”, you could introduce your game (with enthusiasm of course!). We have found that if you can optimize the “windows of opportunity” that (s)he gives you (when (s)he stops and talks to you, or looks at you, or stops their ism) by offering them an interactive activity to play with you, that this really helps a child to build their attention span and ability to interact. Have fun with it!