This was first published in my “Ask Chantal” column in the Autism File magazine.
My son has been diagnosed with autism since he was 3 years old. He will be 5 years old in June of this year but he is still mouthing a lot of things. He loves to put his toys likes legos or blocks and any other items around him in his mouth and will bite them. My son is non verbal although he is currently talking in baby language and making noises. I have tried explaining to him using sign and facial expression not to mouth the things around him. I believe he understands what I am saying as he stops doing it and then after a few seconds he starts to mouth the things again. I have been giving him the chewy tubes recommended by the occupational therapist and he chews them for awhile and then throws them away and seeks to mouth other things. He loves to feel the water by rubbing some water or even soap with both the palms of his hands and then runs them through his lips to sense it. I am so worried as I have tried everything even massaging his checks and using an electric toothbrush. A speech and language therapist that saw my son said that it is possibly his sensory concerns that is stopping his speech from coming on. I am so worried as I do not want this stopping my son’s ability from talking and am also concern that this habit will not stop until he grows up.
Your advice and guidance on this matter is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
With best regards,
It is a very good sign that your son is talking in baby language and making sounds- these are precursors to true language. Luckily, from what you say your son is only mouthing, and not eating these other objects, which would be far more serious. In regards to the oral fixation, all babies go through a period where they are mouthing everything to explore their environment, and perhaps he is going through that developmental stage now, as well. However, you are right to be concerned as these kinds of oral hyposensitive issues are common with children with autism, and we can’t just hope our children will outgrow them. Mouthing objects shouldn’t interfere, but you do want to work on strengthening and toning the oral area and articulators. Usually as these areas strengthen the mouthing will decrease. It would be a good idea to talk about this with an Occupational therapist that is experienced with that age group fo children with autism and with sensory integration challenges. Here is a website that may be helpful with some ideas : http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/oral-sensitivities.html. Also, try to find a parent mentor to ask about similar situations and what has helped, by visiting the TACA website http://www.talkaboutcuringautism.org/index.htm I would continue to offer him safe items to chew on, but I would also suggest that you encourage him to use his baby talk, verbal sounds more and more by trying to get him to sing with you, and engaging him in ‘conversation,’ ie back and forth verbal exchanges even if just sounds. The more practice he has using his sounds appropriately (in a fun way) and using those mouth muscles, the more possibility of him using his sounds to speak. Also, if he is busy trying to sing and speak with you, he can’t be mouthing at the same time.