Why does my autistic child spit?

Spitting must be one of the most unpleasant behaviors parents and teachers alike must deal with when working/parenting a special needs child or autistic child.  The question always remains: “why does my autistic child spit?”

In our experience autistic children have a variety of reasons for spitting.   Some children may spit because they enjoy spitting, whilst other children spit to get attention.  Expressing emotions like anger or dislike, even defiance or annoyance can be the trigger for a spitting episode.

With autism and many other special needs – communication difficulties come into play and some children may use spitting behavior as a form of self-defense.  What I mean by this – is they may spit because they don’t like being touched or when friends try to play with their toys or belongings.

Just like with any other behavior autistic children learn early in the race that certain actions get certain results.  For example:

  • People leave me alone when I spit.
  • When I spit, I get attention.
  • Spitting means I don’t have to finish an activity in class.

Spitting in most instances is behavior related and it is basically the same as a tantrum.  The child uses this behavior as an attempt to meet a need and/or to communicate a message.


User Avatar
Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.