Dealing with spitting - The Play Doctors

Identify why the child is spitting
Could it be because:

 They are looking for a reaction

 It’s learnt behaviour

 The child produces too much saliva

 The child enjoys the sensation of playing with saliva

 To get out of doing something

Strategies and Responses

 Respond quickly and use a consistent approach. Teach the child it is not
acceptable behaviour. Tell the child what the consequences will be if he/she
spits again. Make sure the consequence is meaningful to the child. Be aware
of your own personal reaction – we find spitting a disgusting, but if we over
react and show that it really affects us, the child may continue to get the
reaction again.

 If the spitting is attention seeking, avoid giving any reaction. If the child is
looking for a reaction and you respond, it becomes a game to them and the
behaviour will continue.

 Wipe away the saliva as soon as it happens. Remember some children who
have an underlying impairment such as verbal dyspraxia may not be able to
swallow easily and have a build up of saliva. Therefore they spit to get rid of it.
Find out if this is the case and if so, work with the child and parents to develop
a socially acceptable method to deal with the situation such as spitting into a

 If the spitting is sensory, provide alternative safe sensory opportunities such
as finger painting or water play.

 Follow child’s behaviour management plan (if there is one).

 Give the child a sweet or something to keep their mouth busy (this must not be
seen as a reward).

 Praise good behaviour.

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18 Mar 2019

By Matthew Duester
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