What is Pica?

Our jargon term for today is 'Pica'. I don't know about you but the first time I saw this I thought they were talking about the little font size, right. This is not what we're talking about when we talk about autism. Let's take a look at what our actual definition is. Pica is intentional and compulsive consumption of nonfood items. I feel sort of like it's that "what you talking about Willis". What do you mean? Let's take a look at our working definition here. Pica is eating things that are not meant to be eaten. Can we make that any clearer? The difficulty is that there are individuals who are on the spectrum who suffer from Pica and it is a compulsion. It is a need and there are different reasons for Pica. It's not one size fits all. We can't say "oh well, it's just a desire to chew. It's a nervous tick". That might be for some individuals. For others, it has to do with a nutritional imbalance and for others, it's just so difficult to figure out what their reason is and the compulsion is so overwhelming that this literally can be life threatening. So if you see that the individual that you care about so deeply on the Autism Spectrum is engaging in Pica, if there is anything they are ingesting that is a nonfood item, then it is time to get professional help. This is one of these things that we don't mess around with. If we were talking about that your child is throwing an occasional tantrum, that your child is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, there are a lot of things that we can take on as parents on our own and see if we can be successful before we call in our big guns. Pica, not one of them. There have been cases of children that have eaten batteries and deceased from it. There are kids who eat hair. Hair of course in the stomach lining, I don't know if you know this, but your stomach cannot process it so it can stay there for the life of the individual if not taken care of and depending on how much hair they've eaten, it can become life threatening. There are kids who eat paper, that literally will eat their books. There are kids who chew on a pencil. That's one thing, but kids will actually chew it up and ingest it. That is Pica. That is something that you need to get looked at. A lot of times we see with Pica that parents will try to be calm about it for a period of time and say "I hope they outgrow it" and statistically we see that that is not the right tact to take with Pica, that it is very easy for it to ramp up over time, not necessarily all cases, but it's very easy for it to ramp up over time and what your child is ingesting right now may not seem like it is life threatening, but given enough of it and remember this is a compulsion, it could be and it can morph into other things if they can't get whatever the need is met by eating that thing that they could move on to things that are infinitely more serious. Now the good news is that Pica is ultimately very treatable. It does take time, but it's very treatable so again, this is when you seek professional help when you're dealing with Pica. A board certified behavioral analyst, a licenses psychologist, you've got to get some help for Pica. Children who eat dirt, there are tons of examples. Kids who eat string, eating fabric. We don't want any of those things to go left unchecked so if you now understanding what Pica is, if you see any of that, please get help and support immediately. That's our jargon for today.