4 year old son won't swallow or spit out saliva, refuses to open mouth to speak.

by Lauren
(Binghamton, NY, US)

Okay, so my son went across the street for a play date tonight. When he came back, the parent of the other boy said he had a little choking scare (which tends to be common because he literally bites off more than he can chew), but he was okay after that.

So we're sitting in the living room, I'm letting him play with my tablet for a bit, and I realize he's being quieter than normal. I tried to ask him a question, and he just nodded "yes". I realized something was in his mouth (or that's how it looked), so I asked him to open his mouth so I could see if he had candy or gum or something like that. He refused. He started to shut down when I asked him again. Keep in mind, I'm rather new to this. I was only told he had SPD in April and haven't really had any tips on how to handle it. I'm sort of alone in this when it comes to my parent friends.

So finally, somehow, he opens his mouth, and sorry for the "ew" factor, but a bunch of drool comes out of his mouth and lands on the floor. He grabbed a wipe and cleaned it up himself (which was very gentleman-like, I have to admit), but then refused to speak again. So I started asking yes or no questions to see what was going on with him. I found out through this that he felt like he had a lump and tightness in his throat, felt sort of nauseous and didn't want to eat or brush his teeth before bed. So for one night I allowed him not to brush, and he went to bed with no dinner. I feel bad about both, but I wasn't about to FORCE him to open his mouth. I just kept encouraging him to drink water, but he was scared to swallow.

He's in bed now, and me being a worried mom, and my daughter being with her dad, I have since checked on him. He's still not talking, and I keep encouraging him to lay on his side rather than his back because I'm terrified he will choke on saliva when he falls asleep. He hasn't gotten sick, and he doesn't feel feverish or anything. I have no idea what happened over there and why he feels this nausea feeling now. Has any other mom with an SPD child had this problem, or something similar?

I don't know what to do here. I know once he falls asleep he will swallow in his sleep and wake up just fine, but in case this happens again, I need help on what to do, or am I doing okay?

Sorry this is so long, im just worried and confused.

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Nov 11, 2022
Follow up
by: Daniel

We could really use a follow up. Our son is experiencing this exact thing due to what he describes as pain in his tongue. We're admitted to a hospital right now with IV fluids and dextrose because he's starving and dehydrating himself -- we can't get him to eat at all. Did the issue resolve? Do you think it's SPD related? He hasn't been diagnosed with that. The drs are puzzled. How did you help him through?

Jul 23, 2019
My 3 year old has been having similar episodes.
by: Anonymous

I m not sure if i am worried or relaxed after reading the posts of fellow parents. My 3 year old has been having similar episodes.

It happened with him when he was 2 years old, and would happen usually while eating, he would randomly stop chewing, and hold the food in his mouth, not swallowing, spitting, talking, drinking in that while.. usually it would continue for about 30mins to an hour.

But there have been instance where it last for a few hours.

In this while, he wouldnt do any activity with his mouth except hold the food, shut the mouth and drool from the side of the lips.

These stopped at that time after a few months.

Until yesterday, he is 2yrs 10months now. He was at his activity center when they called me and said he isn't opening his mouth.so what i do, i offer him a lollypop, which he rejects, and then i try cola.. he opens his mouth immediately and will swallow, talk and be back to normal.

This happened again today except now the candy or cola didn't help.it lasted for an hour and was broken by a piece of chocolate..

Now same day after 3 hrs it has happened again.. he was having his bedtime milk, he vomitted and now wont open his mouth.

The saliva is collecting and occasionally coming out from the mouth, but nothing else seems to work. He has full attention, can communicate with directions, can respond with nods. But just wont speak.

I am really really worried. Can someone please help..

Jan 19, 2019
by: Anonymous

I’m curious what happened with your son since I’m having the same issues with my almost 3 year old daughter today. She choked on a pancake this morning and hasn’t ate, drank, or swallowed her spit since. I was too scared to put her down for her nap (plus she was crying) so I’m sure she will be sleeping with us tonight.

Please let me know how you coped with your son. I’m open to suggestions!!

Nov 15, 2015
Rule Out Achalasia
by: Kimberly Safi

Hey, I know our kiddos with SPD can do/have some odd things, this happens to mine also, except she tells me she has throw-up in her mouth (which is accurate, but tiny amounts of previously eaten food)... This made me concerned because I have something called Achalasia, which can cause this.

The non-sciency explanation is the esophagus doesn't open and close like it should and food/liquids can either come up after swallowed, or not be able to go down when trying to swallow. (the sciency explanation- problem with altered pressure in LES (Sphincter) and altered peristalsis of the esophageal muscles). I am not saying yours has this, but in kids they can do an easy test (in adults its awful, so worth checking out) and if he does have it then it can cause aspiration while sleeping (from saliva).

Anyway, just wanted you to be aware of it, you can google Achalasia if you want there is plenty of info, but please ignore the age of diagnosis, they say 25-60, but I was in 2nd grade when I first remember being aware of it, but didn't get a diagnosis until about 15-16 years old.

Nov 15, 2015
I think you are wise...
by: Christine Di

I think you are wise to wonder what happened at the play date. I am not pointing fingers, or maybe I am, its just that if this the first time your son has reacted this way I have to wonder if he wasn't shamed for some manifestation of his SPD? I want to encourage you to trust your intuition and keep seeking answers.

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