Storing Objects in his gums

by Elise C
(Stroudsburg, PA)

I have a 12 year old stepson who is on the spectrum. Within the last 8 months or so, he is storing paper and fiber in his gums. He is not swallowing it and just keeps it tucked up in his gumline.

He constantly fidgets with it (sticks his tongue up there to make sure it's in the right spot) and won't get rid of it. Anything anyone tries (his mother, his teacher, his behaviorist at school, his aides, and us) has had no progress.

He has awful bad breath because the paper/fiber is basically rotting away in his mouth. If you try to remove it when he is sleeping, his eyes will pop open (so he isn't sleeping soundly in fear of the item being removed). On the rare occasion his mother was able to remove it when he was sleeping, he just replaced it with something else.

He also has stopped talking entirely as he used to have a small vocabulary but stopped talking over a year ago, before the gum issue. The storage thing is definitely not helping with his speech though. Now when he does talk, he mumbles and it is very difficult to understand him.

He has always had an issue with his mouth and was obsessed with teeth. He panicked anytime he lost a tooth, but has gotten better with that as he discovered that a tooth will grow back where one has fallen out. He also does not brush his teeth properly and has very poor oral hygiene.

He was evaluated at school and they classified it as a hoarding issue. The school psychiatrist recommended Orajel to numb the gum, but you can't get into his mouth. He won't let you near it and puts up a good physical fight when you try.

We are concerned greatly at this behavior and don't know where else to turn. His mother took him to a neurologist and he said that the issue is age related (he is going thru puberty) and a spectrum thing as well as behavioral. No advice was given as far as we know, as we were not present for the evaluation, even though we asked to be.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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