Q&A: Autistic Child is Biting – How Can I Encourage Him to Stop?

Tamara GuoBehavior, Challenging Behavior

blockquote_bgWhat strategies can you recommend to stop biting? I’m working as an additional educator in a child care centre with a boy with autism that bites when someone is in his space. The boy is 3 years old and speaks only a few words due to regular speech therapy. He does not have a OT or behaviour therapist as the parents can only afford speech therapy and their main concern is his lack of speech. It is also my main concern & I have spoken to his speech therapist which was helpful however this doesn’t stop biting. While I’m an experienced primary school teacher, I have little experience or professional development in special needs. My integration support was unable to give me any strategies for the biting and praised the strategies I had implemented for his communication. Please help!

It would be great if an OT could evaluate this child to determine “why” the biting is occurring. Is it lack of speech when he wants attention or wants something from another child or is it simply because someone is in his space & is too close for comfort making him nervous/uncomfortable? Is it sensory in nature? It may be helpful to give the child something he is allowed to bite when he feels this need, for example a chewy bracelet or necklace or vibrating teether toy that will give him the input he craves if it is sensory in nature. Otherwise, we have 2 articles on toddler biting on our website you may wish to look at: Why Toddlers Bite and How to Discourage a Child From Biting.

This article related to autism may help as well.

The difficulty with a child with autism is that he may not understand the consequences of biting the same way that a child without this diagnosis might. Many children with autism bite for sensory reasons, not to get attention (like typically developing children). You may also instruct the other children to give him his personal space and let them know while biting is not appropriate he is having trouble with friends being too close to him and may bite if hugged or touched. But, I would see if you can steer him toward biting something else instead of the other kids, such as chewlery.