Aspergers Children and Pica

Question

I'm curious about messy eating and chewing on stuff ...pencils, toys, paper, wood ...you name it, he'll put it in his mouth.

Answer

Eating non-food items is referred to as pica. These items may include, but are not limited to dirt, paint chips, coffee grounds, hair, paper, sand, and cigarettes. For a true diagnosis of pica, the child should be craving and eating these things for at least a month.

Although common in infants and toddlers, most children outgrow pica by the time they are about three years old. Pica is also more common with other disorders, such as autism, and other developmental disabilities. 10 to 20% of children may suffer from pica at some point during childhood. Pica is also common during pregnancy.

Though, the specific cause of pica is unknown, there are a lot of theories prevalent trying to explain its cause. Most commonly it is suspected that emotional disturbance and deficiencies of iron or zinc may lead to this condition (However, it is controversial whether iron deficiency leads to pica or pica leads to iron deficiency).

The treatment for pica is first and foremost a secure and stable family structure. Your Aspergers child will have to be taught about edible and non- edible food substances. Your doctor may prescribe iron supplements and de-worming agents. If your child is suspected to have been exposed to a contaminated substance like lead, lead screening may be required.

If your Aspergers child is growing and developing normally, then pica is more likely a habit than an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

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