Pica, or the consumption of non-edible substances, is particularly common in individuals with ASD. This can cause numerous problems for the individual and their families and carers, as well as being potentially very dangerous.

A recent study, appearing in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, concludes that it is possible to successfully manage pica in the main part, through the use of behavioural therapies.

The study focuses on the intensive interventions for pica, as well as other behaviours. It monitored individuals over a period of 2 weeks, and the team found up to a 96% reduction in pica as a result of these interventions.

Strategies employed include:

  • Manually intervening to prevent the individual from consuming the inedible substance
  • Redirecting to a preferred activity
  • Offering a treat in response to the individual voluntarily discarding the object – a form of positive reinforcement and conditioning

The findings of this study are particularly important as they suggest that there are techniques that can be employed by parents at home to reduce pica and other behaviours permanently.

For more information, see here.

Journal Reference: Nathan Call, Christina Simmons et al. Behavioral therapy effective against pica in children with autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2015 Jan 31. [Epub ahead of print]