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Understanding Why Autistic Children Spit

Understanding Why Autistic Children Spit: A Comprehensive Guide

As a parent or caregiver of an autistic child, you may have encountered instances where your child engages in spitting behavior. This can be perplexing and challenging to manage.

However, understanding why autistic children spit is crucial in creating a supportive environment and implementing effective management strategies.

Causes of Spitting in Autistic Children

Sensory Issues: Autistic children may have heightened or altered sensory sensitivities. They might spit due to discomfort from certain textures, tastes, or smells. For example, a child may spit out food that feels too slimy or tastes too bitter. Oral sensitivity can also make swallowing uncomfortable, leading to spitting.

Communication Challenges: Children with autism often face difficulties in verbal communication. Spitting may serve as a non-verbal means of expressing frustration, anger, or anxiety.

Self-Stimulation: For some autistic children, spitting can be a form of self-stimulation, providing sensory feedback that is comforting or soothing.

Strategies for Managing Spitting Behavior

Sensory Integration Therapy: This therapy helps children with autism regulate their sensory input. Activities like deep pressure, brushing, and joint compressions can be beneficial.

Communication Support: Providing alternative means of communication, such as sign language or picture cards, can help autistic children express themselves more appropriately.

Behavior Management: Positive reinforcement techniques, rewarding appropriate behavior, and using negative consequences like time-outs can help manage spitting behavior.

Visual Aids and Schedules: Autistic children often benefit from visual aids and schedules to understand expected behavior and reduce anxiety.

Collaboration with Professionals: Working with therapists, teachers, and doctors can help develop individualized strategies tailored to the child’s unique needs.


Understanding why autistic children spit is a critical step towards addressing this behavior. Employing practical strategies like sensory integration, communication support, and behavior management can significantly improve the situation.

Remember, each autistic child is unique, and strategies should be tailored to their individual needs. By working closely with professionals and maintaining a compassionate approach, we can help autistic children thrive and reduce instances of spitting behavior.

Why Autistic Children Spit

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Autistic Children Engage in Spitting Behavior?

Autistic children may spit due to sensory issues, communication challenges, or as a form of self-stimulation. It can be a response to discomfort from certain textures or tastes, a way to express emotions, or a means of seeking sensory feedback.

Can Spitting in Autistic Children Be a Form of Communication?

Yes, spitting can be a non-verbal means of communication for autistic children, particularly those with limited verbal skills. It may express emotions like frustration or anger.

Is Spitting in Autistic Children Always Intentional?

Not always. Sometimes, autistic children might not be aware of their spitting, or it could be an involuntary response to sensory overstimulation.

How Can I Identify the Triggers for My Child’s Spitting Behavior?

Use the five Ws strategy: who, what, when, where, and why. Observing patterns in spitting occurrences can help identify triggers.

What Are Some Effective Ways to Address Spitting in Autistic Children?

Strategies include alternative communication methods, sensory integration therapy, positive reinforcement, and behavior management. Tailoring these to the child’s needs is key.

Can Social Stories Help in Managing Spitting Behavior?

Yes, social stories that illustrate appropriate behaviors and provide visual aids can be beneficial, especially if customized to the child’s interests.

What Role Does Boredom Play in Spitting Behavior?

Boredom can trigger spitting. Engaging activities or stimuli can help reduce spitting due to boredom.

How Can I Redirect My Autistic Child’s Spitting Behavior?

Redirecting involves offering alternative activities or sensory objects, like squishy toys, to fulfill sensory needs. Providing a glass of water or chewy foods can also help.

Can Rewards Be Used to Manage Spitting Behavior?

Offering tangible rewards for alternative behaviors, coupled with verbal reinforcement, can be effective.

Is Consistency Important in Managing Spitting Behavior?

Consistency is crucial. Address spitting behavior each time it occurs, using clear communication and agreed-upon consequences or rewards.

What Should I Do If My Child Continues to Spit Despite Interventions?

Consult with a pediatrician or specialist. Sometimes, underlying health issues or deeper sensory challenges might contribute to persistent spitting.

Can Behavior Charts Be Useful in Managing Spitting Behavior?

Behavior charts can be effective. Start with a few behaviors, offer rewards, and ensure the chart is seen as a positive reinforcement tool.

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