Thursday, February 8, 2018

Autism & Chewing, and What You Can Do About It

Chewing is a common habit among autistic children. It is widely believed that children with autism chew as a form of sensory stimulation, or “stimming.” A chewing habit can be messy as well as
dangerous in some cases, depending on what the child enjoys chewing on. Luckily, there are many measures that can be taken to redirect a chewing habit or to break it altogether. One of the simplest solutions is to simply redirect the object the child is chewing on—providing special chew toys or snacks can make it less likely that the child will chew on books, clothes, or dangerous objects. Another form of redirection is to take the focus away from chewing by introducing the child to other activities they can do with their mouth. Activities such as singing, whistling, reciting, or playing a mouth-based musical instrument such as the flute can serve as great distractions from chewing. If your goal is to break your child’s chewing habit, one of the best ways to do so is to slowly start taking short breaks from chewing. Allow your child to do a short, non-chewing activity that they love on the condition that they leave their chewing object with you for the duration of the activity. Start off with short activities, otherwise your child may not realize that they will get their chew toy back after the activity. A short, fun activity can act as a distraction, but too long without chewing may be stressful or counterproductive to breaking the habit if the child has a serious chewing habit. Gradually, you can increase the amount of time doing the fun non-chewing activity or adding in other fun activities before rewarding your child with their chewing object, ultimately making them less focused on chewing.

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