QUESTION: Suggestions for a Tic?

QUESTION:

I work with a child with autism that has developed what seems to be a tic. It started after he had chapped lips and was putting on chapstick frequently (I don’t know if it is related). Now he is constantly making slurping noise with his lips and tongue and driving his friends crazy. He says it feels “tickly.”  So far, none of the sensory solutions we have tried (pursing lips, drinking from a resistive straw, gum, deep breaths) gets rid of the feeling, he says, and the noises continue. Do you have any suggestions that we have not tried? He has not demonstrated tic-like behavior in the past.

GWEN’S ANSWER:

I wish I had something to suggest, but it looks like you’ve already tried all of the things! I tend to think this started off as a sensory issue (chapped lips) and became a habit or preferred form of sensory input. I would treat it like an undesirable habit. Explain to him that it drives people crazy. You may even want to make a social story about it. Talk about how it is disruptive to others and cannot be allowed. Keep the other strategies in place and encourage him to use them as alternative forms of input to his lips. Put a system of rewards and consequences in place for “quiet lips.” These will have to be based on what matters most to him.

If this approach isn’t successful, consultation with a doctor would be advised. Even if he hasn’t demonstrated tics in the past, this may be one that could benefit from medical intervention.

Please let me know if you find something that helps for this child!

Best Wishes,
Gwen

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