Many children and adults with autism, consciously or unconsciously, chew, suck or bite non-edible objects such as pencils, sleeves and even themselves. This is a form of self-stimulatory behavior that is used to reduce fear, sooth anxieties or deal with issues around sensory processing
Although many people without autism indulge in this kind of behavior (twirling hair around your finger, biting your nails tapping your fingers, etc.), it can become a problem for some parents of children with autism if their child chews clothes, inappropriate non-food items or has a tendency to chew their fingers. While there are many strategies to reduce chewing, it is one of the more manageable forms of stimming (self-stimulating behaviour) and as such may be preferable to pacing up & down, making loud noises or engaging in self-injurious behaviours such as head-banging or punching to the head.
However, as many a carer of a person with autism knows chewing can result in problems.Chewing on clothes results in dirty, soggy cuffs or collars and in our house has led to a very short life expectancy for some clothes. This is especially true if your child frequently chews his (or her) collar after taking a drink – there is no laundry product on earth that is saving a tee-shirt after a day of chewing & cranberry juice! School supplies die in huge numbers too. Not just chewed pencils but biros, rulers, erasers – you name it they’ve chewed it, and a child who has just chewed his way through half a pack of permanent markers is not a pretty sight, trust me, I speak from experience on this one.
We found that chewing behaviours may cause some problems, but they also soothe and provide a way to cope with a stressful situation or to find much needed sensory stimulation.
One of the first things to do is to give your child something else to chew. Some parents choose to give their children mints or gum, but too much sugar can further tooth decay, and gum can be messy. Better than foods are items designed for older child & adult chewing (not teething toys or those designed for infants) provide your child with the sensory input they want but prevents them from chewing things you don’t want them to.
We were lucky enough to be contacted by CHEWIGEM Canada, who asked if we would like to try out some of their great new designs – and we didn’t need asking twice!
As you can see, Gabe is a big fan. He wears his dog tags everywhere, and I particularly like the fact they don’t look out of place. People rarely notice he’s wearing them and if they do they don’t think twice about them. I have even had other parents ask me where they can get some – purely for how good they look & not as a sensory accessory. Just take a look at some of the fabulous necklace & bracelet designs they have:
I am also a big fan of the plastic pouches with zippers that each item comes in. These are perfect for keeping the CHEWIGEMS clean and preventing the inside of your bag getting a coating of dribble!
There are also different CHEWIGEMS of the various chewing needs – all set out in this handy Chew Chart.
CHEWIGEM® has their own design team which ensures that designs are unique to the company and are not mass produced and the patterned pieces are all slightly different which is nice!
CHEWIGEM ® jewelry is non-toxic, stylish and efficient at meeting the need to chew. It is also a lot more discreet than some chewing aids available on the market. With a wide range of stylish designs, you’ll find a broad range of colours to choose from and a Chewigem that is sure to suit you.
Their silicone is food safe, medical grade is free from harmful chemicals (BPA, PVC, Lead, Latex, and Phthalate free) and meets FDA standards. CHEWIGEM® principles work in close cooperation with the factory to ensure that all regulations are being met. Safety tests are consistently done on all products to meet the standards of the countries in which they are sold.
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If you enjoyed this post you might also like:
Banking With Autism And CIBC – All about an excellent, free life skills app.
Don’t Call Me An Autism Parent – A personal rant I hope you’ll identify with!
Miles before home: Psychology, Fear and Autism – a guest post