Does your child tend to eat non-food items? They may have an appetite for objects such as dirt, paint, or glue. Psychologists classify this as a disorder known as ‘pica.’ Pica is a relatively common behavior among children, and seems to be even more prevalent among children with autism. Children with autism that have pica are more likely to maintain this habit into adolescence, and we should address it differently. Here are some tips for controlling pica in children with autism.
Let Your Pediatrician Know
The first thing you should do when you notice your child exhibiting symptoms of pica is to alert your child’s healthcare provider. Experts have linked pica to deficiencies in iron or zinc. Your pediatrician should be able to schedule a blood test to ensure that deficiencies are—or aren’t—the cause.
Next, they should ensure that your child has not ingested anything significantly harmful to their health. A typical example of this is items containing lead. Your child may have been consuming non-food items for longer than you’re aware of, so testing their blood for lead can ensure that they have not been seriously harmed.
Pica-Proof Your House
Once that’s done, it’s time to pica-proof your home and other places where your child spends significant chunks of time. For the latter, you should inform your child’s teacher’s teachers or therapists so that they can make the necessary adjustments at their workplaces.
Now, it’s onto home modifications. Take note of the non-nutritive items your child tends to eat. Here are a few of these items commonly targeted by children with pica:
- Cigarette butts
Every time you notice your child targeting one of these items, do your best to place them out of your child’s reach or otherwise locked away. Frequent vacuuming or tidying up can be a big help as well.
That said, it’s not always possible to keep your child away from what they might target. For instance, many children with pica consume dirt, but it wouldn’t be fair to keep your child from the outdoors.
There may be measures you can take at home to control your child’s pica, but there is no substitute for the professional attention of a behavioral therapist. As we mentioned earlier, children with ASD who also have pica may require more specialized attention than most. For that, you can count on a trained and licensed professional.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.