Licking Habit and Autism

By Pam Marshalla

Q: I am looking for something to assist us with a student who stimulates by licking everything in sight. Are there any strategies for decreasing this behavior? It interferes with his attending during class.

I have worked so little with kids on the autism spectrum that I do not know how to answer this. I have never had to extinguish a behavior like this. I can say this however: I would not consider this an oral-motor problem. This is a habitual means of self-regulation. You need to speak with someone with expertise in autism about this.

2 thoughts on “Licking Habit and Autism”

  1. My grandson licks his fingers and touches his toys. He has just started this and it drives his mother crazy. He is artistic and has been in therapy for years. Recently they cut back because of covid.

    1. Hey! I’m a registered behavioral therapist (RBT) and I have worked with little kids on the spectrum for 8 years!

      I have only dealt with hand licking a handful of times. The treatment is really based on WHY is he licking. For example if he is licking for sensory input the treatment would be to teach him other ways to gain oral stimulation

      If the function is attention or escape from demands the intervention would be to ignore the behavior or not remove the demand

      I also had a client who licked because he had low iron and other things.

      Hope some of this helps

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