Thursday, November 18, 2010

Clinic Notes: Desensitizing a Child with Autism to Swallow Pills

About half of the children who come to The Children's Treatment Center are on medication. Many children with autism have issues with swallowing pills so parents have to hide the pills in food or find the medication in liquid form if available. Usually, this is only a short term fix. I use a desensitization procedure similar to a procedure covered in a recent Lovaas Institute Newsletter which works well. Begin by having the child swallow all of the liquid in a spoon in one swallow. Start with just a small amount of liquid and gradually increase the amount until the chills can easily swallow the entire spoon full. Do this with a variety of different liquids. Next add a small amount of juice powder to the liquid and gradually increase the amount by decreasing the amount of liquid. Follow this with a spoon of the child's favorite juice as a reinforcer. Small ice chips can then be placed on the spoon for the child to swallow and gradually increased in size. The transition can then be easily made to small pills.

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