Understanding Why Your Child Chews

Understanding Why Your Child Chews

INTRODUCTION

The main reason most children chew is related to their sensory processing system, it’s very common for autistic children to have sensory processing disorder (and experience difficulties with their sensory system).

Most people only know about five body senses, however, there are two more senses these are called the proprioceptive system and vestibular system (controls the balance, spatial awareness).

The proprioceptive system forms sensory input that sends messages to the muscles and joints in the body, this then allows us to know where our limbs are in relation to objects and people.

“I NEED TO BITE SOMETHING”

When a child has difficulties with their proprioceptive system, it can cause difficulties with planning movements and levels of arousal.  This difficulty makes it hard for the child to identify where their body parts are and to feel them as well.

My daughter has proprioceptive difficulties and she will often say to me “I need to bite something”, this is due to her not getting the correct sensory signals to the muscles, and her oral sensory system.

Not getting the correct sensory information affects her in several ways, she will not be receiving pressure in her jaw; which will cause problems with her brain being able to make connections and organise information, and she will struggle to keep focused.

The other reason a child might chew is something called sensory overload, this is where the child feels over-stimulated.  The cause can be from their environment or an overwhelming situation.

When this happens the child will become stressed, anxious, fearful.  This can present in lots of different ways.

THESE ARE SOME BEHAVIOURS THAT WERE SEEN DURING SENSORY OVERLOAD:

  • Irritability, can’t focus
  • Avoid being touched, or talked to
  • Refuses to participate, won’t respond to people
  • Taking themselves away from others
  • Covers ears, covers eyes
  • Angry outbursts, crying, panic attacks
  • Wanting to bite themselves, things or people

Often when this happens children will start to do something called self-regulating behaviours, which some people call stimming (or stims) this helps to calm and regulate the child’s sensory system.

HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF SELF-REGULATING BEHAVIOURS

  • Spinning, jumping, running
  • Hand flapping, fiddling with hands
  • Chewing things, mouthing everything
  • Putting fingers in their mouth, biting nails
  • Making sounds, shouting, humming
  • Moving legs, arms, can’t sit still

This happens when there is a need to regulate the proprioceptive system, by regulating the system the child will feel safe, organised and comfortable.

Chewing is a common need for many autistic and non-autistic children. Addressing this need is so important.

HOW CAN WE SAFELY AND PRODUCTIVELY SUPPORT OUR CHILDREN TO DO THIS?

Well, this can be achieved through proprioceptive activities, these activities will help to regulate the sensory system.

  • Proprioceptive regulating activities:
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Blowing whistles
  • Suck through a straw
  • Chew chewing gum, or hard sweets
  • Jumping on a trampoline

Often sensory overload happens when children are out and about. Lots of these ideas are not mobile ideas, and so I was struggling to support and regulate my daughter’s sensory system.  She would bite herself, her clothing anything she could get hold of.

She was also very vocal, shouting and speaking so loudly, chewing her hair, cracking teeth together and clearly needed to chew.

I didn’t want to keep giving her gum or hard sweets, due to the long term effect on her teeth.  So I did some online investigations around this subject.

It turns out, my child was not alone in feeling this way.  I found a girl called Jamie who felt just the same as my daughter did.

I found out that Jamie was using a product called Chewigem to help support her need to chew.

Chewigem products are all safe to chew and are non-toxic and silicone based.  Chewigem products can be washed or even put in the dishwasher.

I love Chewigem as the products are all discrete and so pretty, stylish and come in such a wide range of colours and designs.

There are necklaces, bangles and pendants in the range.  The look of range is so fun and funky and exactly what children want.  Chewigem is so brilliant for my daughter as now has a safe and effective way to self regulate her sensory system.

Her biting her own arm chewing on her hair, talking loudly, cracking teeth together has all stopped since she uses her necklace (see picture below)

What I like the most about Chewigem is it comes to a resealable little plastic bag, so you can just pop that into our bag. So easy and portable, or it can just wear it out.  Supported children mean happy children.  

Thanks, Chewigem!