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How to Decrease Chewing in Children with Autism:

511px Caique chewing clothespin headview cropped 255x300 How to Decrease Chewing in Children with Autism:Some children with autism like to chew on clothes, paper or anything that they can get their hands on easily. Does your child do that? Here’s more about why children with autism chew excessively and what you can do about it.

Children with autism have difficulty in regulating their sensory experiences. They can have hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to various sensations. Excessive chewing is an example of sensory hyposensitivity. These children chew, not because they want to destroy clothing, or other objects, but because they may like or need the sensation that they get by chewing. Thus, when we try to help a child with this problem, we need to tackle the root of the problem, which is sensory in nature.

Changing the Object they chew:

This is the simplest way to tackle this problem, and maybe even the best way to start working on this issue, is replacing valuable objects with a chewing toy. Chew necklaces are great for children who chew on their clothes. Chewy toys give children the sensory experience they require, and thus they automatically stop chewing on other things like good books, and clothes. Here are some examples of chewy toys.

 How to Decrease Chewing in Children with Autism: How to Decrease Chewing in Children with Autism:

Chewy candy, or chewing gum can be used, but both need to be used with caution as too much candy can cause tooth decay, and chewing gum can be a mess.

Oral Stimulation:

Oral Stimulation refers to different techniques to stimulate different parts of the mouth. These exercises also provide stimulation to the mouth, and may decrease the need for the child to chew. Oral stimulation can be done by a trained therapist, or it can be done in the form of activities with the child. Some activities that can provide oral stimulation are:

-          Sucking liquids through a straw

-          Blowing balloons

-          Blowing bubbles

-          Filling up the mouth with air ( Puffing up cheeks)

-          Touching teeth with the tip of the tongue and going from one end to another.

-          Making different types of sounds and noises

-          Pulling cheeks apart in front of the mirror and making faces

 

Taking short breaks from Chewing:

Once you are able to change the object that the child chews on, and help them to get sensory experiences from other oral activities than chewing, the child may be ready to take short breaks from chewing. Do this, by allowing the child to participate in an activity that they love (Like swinging on a swing) , but on the condition that they leave their chewing object with you while doing the activity. Initially, keep the breaks short, so that the child knows that when he is done with the activity, he will get his chewing object back. Slowly, change the activity and give some other reward at the end of it, for example if you do the activity in this workbox, you can swing after that, and then get your chewing object. In this way, slowly increase the time that the child spends without chewing.

 

Chewing in Private:

As your child becomes older and chewing decreases, you will need to teach your child that they can engage in chewing, but not in public. Keep chewing objects in the bathroom, and allow your child to go there and use them for a few minutes every hour or so. Slowly decrease this time. You can also  encourage the child to use other oral stimulation techniques that are socially acceptable like drinking cold water and moving the water around the mouth, chewing gum etc.

Get your child involved in activities that require them to use their mouth:

This technique works similar to distraction. Get your child to do something else with their mouth, preventing them from chewing. Reward the child for engaging in this activity, encourage them, and praise them for the activity. You don’t even need to bring up the issue of chewing. Some activities you can introduce in this situation are:

-          Singing

-          Reading aloud

-          Reciting

-          Talking

-          Whistling

-          Playing a mouth organ

-          Playing flute

-          Blow painting

-          Painting with a paintbrush in the mouth

 

Allow your child to chew for short periods of time, and follow it with learning activities:

This is a technique to improve attention and concentration for learning tasks. Give your child a few minutes to chew on their toy and then work with your child for 15-30 minutes. You will find that your child learns better at that time compared to other times.

 

Hope these ideas can help you to decrease chewing in your child with autism. Do you have any ideas of your own? Do let me know.

 


11 comments to How to Decrease Chewing in Children with Autism:

  • suzanne

    what if the child refused to chew on the chewy tube after a while.??

  • megan

    thanks so much i never even thought to look for a chew toy i just found out not to long ago my lil girl has autisim and it seems that chewing and biting her self has really been an issue im glad i looked it up

  • Pam

    My son is now 11 and 99% of his chewing activity happens at night, in bed. He chews holes through his t-shirts and if we remove the t-shirts, he will chew on his blankets. On average, we go in 3 to 4 times a night to change his shirt because it is soaked and he is cold from being wet. Any suggestions?

    • Its possible that this chewing increases at night because of some other sensory issue that he is having at night time. Try changing the texture of the blankets/ mattress, lights, playing light music… things like that..

      If none of that works, try maybe a chewing necklace?
      Its very hard to say without knowing the child!

  • TNK

    My son is 14, and still finds the need to chew. This happens frequently when he is stressed out. He has taken a liking to the caps of pens. I find them everywhere chewed up.

  • Sonya

    My son chews his neck or cuff of a shirt. I thought this may be due to stress, but am aware he is not getting the oral sensory stimulation he needs. I have replaced this with a damp face cloth for the summer and will buy the sensory chew wrist bands when school comes so he doesn’t chew his school uniform. This hyposensitiy has also been a big stumbling block to potty training as he doesn’t feel it and is very hyper.

  • Jenny

    Pam,

    My daughter has had a cloth rabbit with long ears that she has chewed since she was very small. (Obviously not just the one, we are on about number 7 and have a few on the go at once so I can wash them). Could you try taking one or two of the t-shirts and making it into something he could chew- like twisting it or sewing it into a tube like necklace? Maybe you could then put several in the bed at a time? Or maybe make them into tags on the blankets? At least you wouldn’t need to change his top so often and he wouldn’t be uncomfortable? I have been known to get my daughter started on a new rabbit by popping it into her mouth when shes asleep. Otherwise she will reject it for not being chewed already.
    My daughter chews her rabbits at night and pretty much anything that she can get into her mouth during the day. At the moment we are struggling with chewing pencils at school. She is not learning to write because of it. I am thinking of putting some clothes pegs into her pencil case that she can chew on. She seems to like the hard sensation that chewy necklaces dont have (also she goes through them v quickly).

  • tracy

    my son also loves to chew, paper and toilet roll…..and what a mess he leaves beind…if hes really stresed and n a mood he will throw/spit it on walls windows …brougt him a chewy necklace -chewed straight through it in two minutes….!!

  • Chris

    We have a 20 year old son that chews everything.. and I mean everything. Door jams, window sash, the door under the bathroom sink.. His shirts.. wow he goes through a shirt in about 1 minute (Literally).. I just went to Target and was walking through the pet section, and came across the Nylabone.. I asked him if he liked it and he handed it back to me, after 2 other models, he found one he likes, so I got it.. HE CANNOT KEEP IT OUT OF HIS MOUTH.. We are going to see how much this helps him. The Chew toys on the internet sites for autism would not stand up because of the strength of his bite, but the Nylabone product should.

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