Oral sensitivities are also sometimes referred to by the term “oral stimming.” A child will ‘stim’ as a way of regulating his or her emotions or as a response to situations in which he or she is either under stimulated or overstimulated by their surroundings.
Chewing behavior can be difficult to manage for children who have a requirement for oral stimulation. Children frequently can’t resist the urge to chew on things that they shouldn’t be chewing on because they don’t know any better.
This behavior cannot be changed, but it can be managed by substituting it with more beneficial activities. So, can you control oral stimming? YES!
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What Oral Stimming Look Like
A child who engages in oral self-stimulation can frequently be found with objects in their mouth. You might catch him or her giving inanimate things a lick and a taste test.
Comparable to a young infant who discovers the world around them by putting things in their mouth in order to gain knowledge about those things. Taste testing is just one example of the type of stimming behavior that people engage in. The chewing behavior emerges later in its development.
Children often like to chew on inanimate objects such as the following:
This is without a doubt the most frustrating sensory issue to deal with when you are a parent of a child who is a “chewer” because it can become dangerous. Because anything could be a potential object for chewing, constant supervision is required due to the following dangers.
Dangers Of Oral Stimming:
- It’s possible to choke on inanimate objects that are small enough to swallow
- Teeth are susceptible to damage from hard objects
- Objects have the potential to cause choking
This presents a significant challenge for parents who have children who feel the need to chew on objects. If a child absolutely needs to chew something, what should you do for them?
First, you need to accept the fact that you are unable to stop the chewing behavior. Chewing is a great way to stimulate your senses as well as calm your emotions.
Chewing is compulsive for a child, and they feel the need to chew on everything. To put it another way, they have no choice!
Second, the behavior of chewing can be managed, and precautions can be taken to reduce the risk of health problems, damage to the teeth, and the possibility of choking.
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5 Tips for Effective Management of Oral Stimming
Look For Choking Dangers On A Regular Basis
There are numerous instances in which objects all around the house are chewed on, and it is not always obvious. If the object is chewed on an excessive amount, it could become damaged over time. This is what I refer to as “sneaky chewing.”
It is chewing that occurs without your knowledge leaving you to wonder what happens to an object or part of an object.
If your child with autism has a tendency to chew on objects without your knowledge then you need to check your home frequently for things your child likes to chew on. Look for pieces of cardboard, clothing, school supplies, loose change and more around the house.
While such items as toys and clothing can break down over time with too much chewing, random objects that can fall on the floor like loose change can pose a choking hazard.
Offer Extra Chewy Snacks
Offer plenty of snacks that require extra chewing and jaw power to provide a healthy oral sensory sensation. This will satisfy a child’s need for the chewing stimulation that this provides.
Here are some alternatives to crunchy foods that you can try:
- Cereal bars
- Protein bars
- Veggie chips
- Whole apples cut into slices or
- Dried fruit
- Fruit snack
Try Oral Stimming Jewlery
To assist children in meeting their oral sensory needs, children’s chewable jewelry is available in a variety of forms, including bracelets, necklaces, and even the caps of pencils. These types of chewable objects provide a safe, long-lasting, and easy-to-access alternative to the practice of a child chewing on everything that they shouldn’t be chewing on.
Try some of these chewable jewelry:
Make Use of Redirection
Chewing is an example of an oral stimming behavior, and since this behavior cannot be stopped, the most effective way to manage it is to redirect it. If you notice that your child is starting to chew on his or her shirt, you should look for something else that is appropriate for them to chew on, such as jewelry that can be chewed.
Then you should direct their chewing behavior toward the chewable jewelry.
When I see that my son is starting to chew on his shirt, I always make a beeline for his necklace that he can chew on. After that, I caution him that “shirts are not meant to be chewed” and hand him the necklace that he can chew on instead. Chewing is always successful when used as a diversion to focus on more positive outlets.
Chewing is an example of an oral stimming behavior, and since this behavior cannot be stopped, the most effective way to manage it is to redirect it.
Your child should be made aware, through the use of redirection, that chewing on certain objects is not acceptable behavior; however, the chewing of chewable jewelry is an acceptable form of oral stimming behavior. This allows a child the freedom to express themselves while reducing the amount of wear and tear placed on items that cannot be chewed.
Include Straws with Your Beverage Offerings
The provision of beverages with straws is an additional method for managing chewing behavior. The more compact the straw or the more substantial the beverage, the better.
Despite the fact that this does not provide a sensation of chewing, it is still able to satisfy the oral sensory need that many children crave.
Because they have such a small straw, milk or juice boxes are excellent for providing additional resistance. Smoothies are yet another alternative that I frequently use in place of juice boxes.
If your child prefers smoothies to juice, you can give them a healthy alternative in the form of fruit and vegetable smoothies. Make sure, though, that your child uses a straw when drinking the smoothie.
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Can You Control Oral Stimming?
Yes, oral stimming can be control. But it’s important not to completely discourage the behavior as it is soothing for many children.
Chewing is a form of oral stimming that can be challenging for a parent to manage when their child exhibits the behavior. A significant portion of my day is spent admonishing my son, “don’t chew on that!”
Everything that shouldn’t be chewed ends up in his mouth, despite the fact that I know he can’t help himself and that it’s a sensory need that has to be satisfied. Generally speaking, this results in the destruction of everything. In addition to that, I’ve come dangerously close to choking on various things, like rocks.
It is not possible to put an end to the practice of oral stimming. However, it is something that can be managed, and along with that, certain precautions can be taken to keep your child safe.
When it comes to my own child, I’ve discovered that the most effective method for managing my son’s habit of chewing is a combination of redirection and chewable jewelry!