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 🙂

3 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

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