Swallowing a pill is an important life skill that people can learn with patience and practice. For people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it can take a little more time, patience and practice to learn how to swallow a pill properly. Learn how to help a person with ASD in your care learn how to swallow a pill.

Can the person in my care chew pills instead of swallowing them?

Sometimes. It is important that everyone learns how to swallow a pill. This can allow for more treatment options.

Some pills must be swallowed whole for the medicine to work properly. Some pills are made to release medicine slowly through the day. These are known as extended release (ER or XR) or sustained release (SR) medications. It is unsafe to chew pills that are meant to work as a longer acting medicine because a whole day’s dose of medication would be released at once.

When do people usually learn how to swallow a pill?

Most children can learn to swallow pills by age 5 or 6. Some children, teens and adults with ASD may take a little longer to learn this skill. Practice learning to swallow a pill with small, round candies first. Once the person in your care can swallow small candies successfully, they can start to swallow pills.

Rev. 9/2018. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.