Children on the autism spectrum tend to display chewing behaviors. Whether it is clothes, toys, their hands, and even their hair, chewing seems to be a constant trade in ASD children.
Today we will analyze the reasons behind this behavior as well as share with you some suitable ways to ease it!
Why Does ASD Children Chew?
Chewing can be traced back to various reasons:
- Over stimuli: When the child feels anxious or stressed because of his/her surroundings, chewing can be calming.
- Explore: Chewing, just like in babies, is a way to discover the world around them, therefore the desire to taste.
- Attention: In some cases, chewing behaviors come as a result of attention-seeking. The child knows that parents will respond to this conduct, and therefore he/she does it to be noticed.
- Anxiety: When children feel anxious, chewing acts as a soothing behavior and brings them comfort.
- Dental Issues: If your child is facing some dental discomfort such as cavities, or teething, chewing is a way to soothe them.
- Pica: This is a condition that can point to nutritional deficiencies or malabsorption. Children who suffer from it will feel a desire to eat dirt, hair, or even paint chips.
How Can I Ease Chewing In My Child?
Since chewing is a comforting activity, stopping your child from doing it could lead to more anxiety and stress.
From a sensory standpoint, these behaviors provide a lot of tactile (touch) input from skin surfaces and proprioceptive sense (body awareness from joints, muscles, and connective tissue) from the jaw and teeth. A good way to handle this is orienting the chewing unto objects that are safe for your child.
Food: Crunchy foods like pretzels and raw vegetables are great ways to ease sensitivities. Additionally chewing items like fruit leathers, and gluten-free bagels are incredible choices to improve oral sensitivities.
Chewing Gum: Looking for a sugar-free, gluten-free, and casein-free option is good to bring a sweet treat that can be safe and healthy.
Liquids: Plain filtered water is great as is organic coconut water. Drinking liquids, especially thicker ones, through fun straws can be an additional way to improve coordination while easing discomfort.
Chewlery: Some brands have launched an ASD safe jewelry that allows children to ease oral sensitivities by chewing them. Dr. Bloom’s Chewable Jewels is a line invented by a dentist that can be safe for autistic children.
Besides, we highly recommend you pair these options with positive reinforcement. In other words, make it fun! Sing a song, clap your hands, anything that he/she can relate to as positive. This will help re-direct your child’s chewing towards unharmful objects.
Many times chewing can intensify during stressful situations for your child. Learning to identify your child’s triggers is a good way to find a proper solution.
Remember, when it comes to discovering possible stress factors, patience is key. Take a moment each day to analyze your child’s behavior after chewing, and biting.
Keep in mind that being a mom is a continuous journey of discovery and learning. So if you find yourself on new territories and are learning daily you are on the right track. Keep going, mommy!
At WSCC, we offer support for autistic families and their children with Stem Cell Therapy treatments that can transform autistic conditions by healing the gut, decreasing inflammation, and improving brain function. We also created an on Facebook that is destined to offer support and companionship for ASD parents and their families on their journey.
Remember, you are not alone!