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Effective Strategies to Support Students with PICA

Are you a teacher, caregiver, or parent looking for effective strategies to support students with PICA tendencies? PICA, a condition where individuals eat non-food items, can present unique challenges in educational and caregiving settings. In this blog post, we will explore practical and innovative ways to help these individuals navigate their environment safely.

Understanding PICA

Before delving into strategies, it's essential to understand PICA better. PICA is characterized by the persistent consumption of non-nutritive, non-food substances over a period of at least one month, and it is most commonly observed in children, individuals with autism, or individuals with developmental disabilities. Understanding the underlying causes and triggers of PICA is crucial in developing effective intervention plans.

Pica Image

Effective Strategies to Support Students with PICA

Creating a Safe Environment

One of the fundamental strategies in supporting students with PICA is to create a safe and controlled environment. This includes removing access to potentially harmful items, such as small objects, chemicals, or sharp materials. Implementing safety measures like locks on cabinets and drawers can help prevent accidents and reduce the risk of ingesting dangerous substances.

Implementing Structured Meal and Snack Times

Establishing structured meal and snack times can be beneficial for individuals with PICA tendencies. This routine provides predictability and helps regulate eating behaviours. Ensure that meals are nutritious and well-balanced to meet dietary needs, reducing the urge to consume non-food items out of nutritional deficiencies.

You can also use visuals around the house and classroom to countdown to mealtimes or use a visual timetable that explicitly states when meal and snack times are.

Structured Meal

Sensory Alternatives and Diversions

Incorporating sensory alternatives and diversions can redirect the individual's focus from inappropriate items to more suitable sensory experiences. Providing chewable jewellery, fidget toys, or textured items can fulfil sensory needs and reduce the likelihood of engaging in PICA behaviours.

Positive Reinforcement and Communication

Utilising positive reinforcement strategies can encourage desired behaviours and discourage PICA tendencies. Praise and rewards for appropriate eating behaviours can reinforce positive habits. Additionally, open and clear communication with the individual can help identify triggers or underlying emotional factors contributing to PICA.

Collaboration with Healthcare Professionals

Collaborating with healthcare professionals, such as doctors, therapists, or behavioural specialists, is critical in developing comprehensive strategies to address PICA. These professionals can provide valuable insights, assessments, and tailored interventions to support the individual effectively.

Healthcare Collaboration


Supporting students with PICA requires a multifaceted approach that combines environmental modifications, structured routines, sensory alternatives, positive reinforcement, and collaboration with healthcare professionals. By implementing these strategies with empathy, understanding, and patience, we can create a safe and supportive environment for individuals with PICA tendencies to thrive and reach their full potential.

Remember, every small step towards understanding and supporting individuals with PICA makes a significant difference in their well-being and overall quality of life.

So, let's embrace these strategies and make a positive impact on the lives of those with PICA!

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