In this article, we’ll explore the possible link between humming while eating and autism, and discuss what other signs and symptoms might indicate autism.
By looking at available research, we hope to provide clarity on whether this behavior holds any significance in identifying individuals on the autism spectrum.
But first, let’s understand what autism is.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.
The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in symptoms and severity between individuals on the autism spectrum.
Some key traits include difficulties with social-emotional reciprocity, such as abnormal social approach, failure of normal back-and-forth conversation, and reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect.
People with ASD may have difficulty picking up on social cues through facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.
Individuals with autism frequently rely on repetitive behaviors as a way to self-regulate their sensory processing.
Humming, like plugging one’s ears or tapping body parts, may serve this compensatory purpose for some – helping modulate auditory or other sensory inputs.
When assessing for autism, the presence of humming would need to be considered within the broader clinical picture.
Isolated humming during mealtime does not confirm an ASD diagnosis.
However, if combined with other challenges like selective eating patterns or difficulties managing sensory overload, it could represent a regulatory strategy for someone on the spectrum.
Why Might People with Autism Hum While Eating?
Individuals with autism sometimes struggle to understand social norms and conventions related to mealtimes.
Humming or making loud noises when eating goes against typical social behaviors, but someone on the autism spectrum may not realize this due to difficulties reading implicit social cues.
For those with autism, self-stimulatory or repetitive behaviors can serve an important sensory function.
Stimming provides predictive sensory input that helps the person cope with anxiety, focus attention, or express feelings in a controlled way.
Humming while eating may be calming or help filter out distracting chewing sounds for someone who is overly sensitive to noise.
According to a study, one person with autism described humming when eating chips to “block out audio input from the crunching.”
In busy, overwhelming environments like restaurants, stimming helps ignore external stimuli.
Experts equate it to relaxing activities neurotypical individuals enjoy, like playing music or sports.
Humming during meals commonly arises in those with less advanced language and social abilities.
For a child struggling to communicate, murmuring provides sensory satisfaction and reduces stress around dining.
While challenging to curb, understanding its purpose can help support appropriate mealtime behaviors and experiences for individuals on the autism spectrum.
How Can Humming While Eating Be Managed?
For individuals who exhibit humming or vocalizing during meals, there are a few strategies that parents and caregivers can try to help make the behavior less disruptive or bothersome.
One approach is to remain calm and avoid bringing unnecessary attention to the noises, as this type of reaction could potentially reinforce and exaggerate the behavior.
Gently redirecting the child’s focus back to their food through simple prompts like “It’s time to eat now” can help in some cases.
Communication devices may also assist nonverbal individuals in expressing themselves without vocal stims.
Distracting with pleasant background music or minimizing external stimuli in the dining environment have shown some success as well according to anecdotal reports.
With patience and positive reinforcement over time, mealtime routines can become less anxious through consistent boundaries, social cues modeling, and, if necessary, occupational or speech therapy incorporating visualization or oral motor exercises.
The goal should always be compassionate support of neurological differences rather than attempting to wholly suppress harmless stims.
With understanding and adaptation, dining can remain an enjoyable social activity for individuals on the spectrum.
When To Seek Professional Help?
While humming during meals on its own may not necessarily require clinical intervention, some signs would indicate getting an evaluation from a medical professional:
If the behavior is excessive or disruptive to the point that it seriously impacts the individual’s eating or mealtime routine. Loud or aggressive vocalizations could signal deeper issues.
The noises persist to an unusual degree beyond childhood and into teenage/adulthood years without improving over time.
It forms part of a pattern of restrictive/repetitive behaviors that may be interfering with functioning or learning.
There are accompanying signs of other underlying challenges such as feeding difficulties, food selectivity, digestive issues, or anxiety around mealtimes.
Managing the behavior through home strategies proves consistently ineffective over several weeks.
The individual expresses significant distress over attempts to reduce the vocalizing.
In such cases, an evaluation by a speech therapist, occupational therapist, or psychologist can help uncover contributing factors and form an effective treatment plan if needed.
Addressing problems early usually leads to better long-term outcomes.
In conclusion, while research has found that humming during meals may be more prevalent among individuals on the autism spectrum compared to neurotypical people, it is not used as a diagnostic criterion for autism.
Many behaviors and traits must be considered comprehensively by medical professionals during an evaluation.
However, gaining greater awareness of these types of tendencies can help individuals on the spectrum feel more comfortable and included in social environments like family dinner meals.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have autism, it is important to consult with a qualified professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate support.
1. Can humming while eating be a sign of another condition?
Yes, humming while eating can be a sign of other conditions, such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is also possible that humming behavior can be a coping mechanism for individuals with sensory processing difficulties.
2. How can I support someone with autism who hums while eating?
If you are dining with someone who has autism and they are humming while eating, it is important to be understanding and supportive. Avoid interrupting or criticizing their behavior, and allow them to continue humming if it helps them feel more comfortable or calm. If you are concerned about the behavior, you can discreetly ask their caregiver or support person for guidance on how to best support them.
3. Is it important to diagnose autism early?
Yes, early diagnosis of autism is important for several reasons. Early diagnosis can help individuals with autism access appropriate support and therapy, which can improve their quality of life and help them reach their full potential. Additionally, early diagnosis can help families understand and support their loved one with autism and can help reduce the stigma associated with autism.