I’m outside with my four-year-old son. He’s chewing on something.
“Give it to Mama,” I say to him, my palm positioned in front of his mouth.
Philip leans over, opens his mouth and spits out the object into my outstretched hand.
When I’m not standing close enough to use my hand as a receptacle, Philip also responds to a sharp “What’s in your mouth?” by taking out the current occupant and throwing it aside. Again with the throwing, but at least the item is no longer a choking hazard.
Philip’s receptive language is improving. Yay?
Of course, YAY! I can’t complain when Philip demonstrates that he understands a simple instruction (something he didn’t do a year ago). And it isn’t all Philip’s fault. I obviously trained him to believe that dropping saliva-covered treasures on Mommy’s hand was praise-worthy or that throwing the same would get Mommy to stop harping at him.
What sundry bits have emerged from Philip’s mouth in these situations? A fragment of glass, bits of metal, chunks of foam, pieces of plastic, assorted rocks, stems, twigs, grass and other weeds, clumps of paper and portions of string. When Philip puts sand or dirt in his mouth, that’s the beginning of a one-way trip. He may try to spit the soil back out into my hand, but “Bleh!” is usually the only thing that escapes.
I used to think that Philip suffered from pica. I asserted that he had the eating disorder in this post on my blog. Pica, something I had heard of before, is characterized by a craving for non-food items. I had heard of pica, but not Sensory Processing Disorder. After reading more about SPD, I realized I was misinterpreting the behavior. Philip doesn’t eat all of those objects I listed above. Instead, my little sensory seeker is getting input through his mouth. He likes to chew on items and hold them in his mouth, but he avoids ingesting them.
Once I learned about SPD, I was surprised to discover quite a range of products available for oral-motor stimulation. Once I explained the behavior to my parents, Grandpa bought a chewable necklace for his grandson. So far, Philip has been more interested in swinging the plastic disc on its lanyard than chewing on it (satisfying a different sensory need). Still, we’ll have to keep trying to offer alternatives that are safe and sanitary.
I’m pleased to have been offered the explanation of the why behind this behavior. My increased awareness and knowledge of SPD helps me understand the why behind many behaviors that used to cause only frustration and tears for both me and my son.
The how to respond is still a work in progress.