Chewing on clothing and other items is a common sensory need of children with autism or sensory integration disorder. Some children have mild chewing needs and others can really be serious biters, practically bending metal with their teeth. Though the heavy jaw work of chewing may help to relieve stress and calm, it can also be intrusive, not to mention damaging at times. Sometimes heavy work such as using a jumping board, swinging on a trapeze , exercise or even doing chores can minimize the need to chew. A calming environment such as a Chill Spa Room can also have a huge impact.
Yet there are actually benefits from encouraging chewing with the right chewy. Of course, with any activity comes education and using it appropriately. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using a chewy.
- Provide a Sensory Filter. A chewy can provide a fantastic sensory filter. For those who have trouble filtering sights, sounds, touch, smells and even tastes, chewing can help filter and organize and onslaught of sensory information. Choose a chewy that is readily available and one that your child is comfortable using, such as a Dog Tag Chewies that hang around the neck. Whichever chewy you choose, be sure it is durable and safe for your child’s chewing needs.
- Improve Focus. Studies have shown that gum chewing may actually improve test scores! What we do know is that it can help some individuals concentrate and focus. For others it may be distracting. So choose carefully and pick a chewy pack that is quiet, accessible and can be easily cleaned.
- Strengthen Oral Motor and Facial Muscles. A chewy can be a huge benefit for those who require an oral motor workout or strengthening in this area. In addition to oral motor tools, a chewy can provide a means of oral motor exploration and can even help minimize food aversions by gently introducing different textures. Choose a texture that is narrow enough to reach the back jaw muscles, such as this star-shaped Chewy Pencil Topper. For vibration, use a Z-Vibe.
- Support Speech. Although a chewy cannot directly impact speech, it can help strengthen the tongue and jaw and lip closure – affecting speech, eating and drinking too! Your local speech therapist can help you select the best chewies for speech needs.
Of course, if you want to stimulate many senses all at once, try the Chewy Fidget Coil: Colorful to the eye, chewy to the mouth, tactile to the fingers for wrapping and stretching, and sound-making for the ears!