Chewing is a common behavior in special needs children,
especially those with autism or ADHD.
Children with sensory issues often feel compelled to chew on paper,
clothes, or other objects.
Sensory processing disorder is a condition often linked to
autism, ADHD, and other special needs.
The term refers to the difficulty intaking and understanding sensory
information from outside stimuli.
Some children might feel over or under stimulated. Children with autism might chew because
they like the sensation they get from the behavior.
Many parents of children with sensory issues are concerned
about the constant chewing because it tears up clothing and other objects, and
chewing certain objects can cause tooth or health problems.
One of the first things to do is to give your child
something else to chew. Chewy
tubes and other toys designed for child 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. Some parents choose to give their
children mints or gum, but too much sugar can further tooth decay, and gum can
A method to prevent chewing is to give your child oral
stimulation that does not involve chewing but still gives oral sensations. Blowing through a straw, blowing
bubbles, making noises, and making faces in a mirror are examples of oral
activities. Encourage other
activities that require the use of the mouth but cannot be done at the same
time as chewing; such activities include singing, talking, reading a book out
loud, or painting with a paintbrush in the mouth.
Encourage your child to gradually participate in activities
other than chewing. Take a short “break”
from chewing by allowing your child to engage in another activity he likes,
such as swinging. Make sure your
child knows he cannot use his chew toy during the swinging activity, but he
will get the toy back at the end of the swinging time. This trick will prevent a tantrum, but
you can also gradually increase the amount of time your child goes without his
As a child gets older, finding discreet chew toys might be
necessary. Chew necklaces are
popular alternatives to chewy tubes that are more age appropriate and discreet.
Photo by ChewyTubes.com