Thumb Sucking With Asperger’s Syndrome

By Pam Marshalla

Q: I have a 9-year-old male client with Asperger’s who sucks him thumb. I read your book How to Stop Thumbsucking and have had success with other children, but not this one. Advice?

I have never faced this but I think this all boils down to what makes sense for him. It seems that the only things that get through to these clients are the things they can plug into their own logic.  If you can figure out what makes ideas get through to him, and if you could steer conversation toward that, then I think you could work out a plan.

For example, if he is rule-bound, perhaps you could teach him a rule: “No children above the age of X suck fingers or thumbs.” Then it would be logical for him to stop because he is beyond that age.  Perhaps the rule should be embedded into a series of general 5-10 rules about appropriate behavior in the classroom, at home, etc.

I worked with one very rigid four-year-old who was like this. When he went to his 3-year dental checkup he overheard his dentist say that thumb sucking was not bad.  So for the next year the boy insisted that he should be left alone to suck his thumb.  But then the dentist reversed this opinion at the boy’s four-year checkup.  The doc mentioned that the boy had to stop because it was beginning to ruin his occlusion and the boy quit the next day.

You never know what will cause a child to comprehend and accept a new idea, especially when they have Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome 🙂

6 thoughts on “Thumb Sucking With Asperger’s Syndrome”

  1. When my daughter was starting to suck her thumb more than previous at age 4, I explained about how it could ruin her teeth and it wouldn’t look very good. She didn’t believe me. I googled “Thumb Sucking Teeth” on google images, showed her what could happen, and she stopped that day. Its been over a year and a half. The images are pretty sightly. A friend of mine was skeptical, but did the same with her 5 year old son after trying many different things and he stopped immediately too, that’s been almost a year. I’d check with parents first though.

  2. My daughter is 10, I’ve shown her images, I’ve helped her with replacement behavior, tried chewing gum, candy, straw, ice…you name it, I’ve tried it. She doesn’t do it all the time, only when anxious. Tried breathing, blowing up a balloon, sensory toys (slime, squishy toys, etc). Nothing seems to work. Most of her baby teeth are gone and her mouth does not look distorted (I’m glad that it isn’t, however, I thought if she had crooked teeth, she would stop). I’m truly hoping by middle school or high school she will kick the habit

    1. Please show her this message. My mother told me i needed to stop, but the stress at home was too much. My mother would end up telling me to go “suck my thumb and calm down” …when i turned 18 i went to an ortho oral surgeon…she said she would have to break my jaw and sew ir shut to realign it. Rip out 2 teeth in order to push my row of teeth back. Then after months of my mouth wired shut. I can make an ATTEMPT at braces with baby screws put in my gums. She said i may be too far gone. At age 18. She said that years further my front teeth will push into each other. I have open bite, cross bite malocclussion. I never got the surgery. I still have lock jaw/ pain. Too many cavities due to bacteria etc. Also PLEASE remove your child’s wisdom teeth before they push through. It will make bite worse and burrow holes into other teeth….I teeth….I wish i would have quit but i was shamed and screamed at constantly. I’m in late 20s now and being treated for adhd etc

  3. Please do not scare your children into this. That only creates a psychological burden between what they are doing and the fear of doing it. They are looking for something to self sooth. I suggest a healthy behavior replacement. Instead of sucking their thumb perhaps encourage them to lay under a weighted blanket or use their hands by playing with a fidget toy.

  4. I was diagnosed with autism, aspergers syndrome a few years ago. I started sucking my thumb again when I was 4, I wet myself, my mother smacked me, I have difficulty controlling bodily functions, speech, movement etc. I am now 64, 65 next year, but have held down jobs, had some academic success, and, at present, am looking after myself with the help of family and friends. It just shows there is light at the end of the tunnel, a pot of gold under the rainbow, but it’s hard, but never give up!

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