Finding the perfect chewy for autism can benefit children who need to chew. However, there are many different chew toys available in the market ranging from chew tubes to chew jewelry that are textured and meet different tactile needs. When looking for the perfect chewy, it’s hard to know where to start!
In this article, I’m going to round up some ideas and products that parents may want to explore further. But, before we dive deeper into that, it’s important to think about why your child chooses to chew.
Why is my child chewing on his clothes?
People who have a sensory need to chew, such as those with sensory processing disorder and autism, tend to chew on objects in their environment to meet their sensory needs. Things like clothes, the side of their mouth, their tongue, their fingers, or other objects they have around them.
This habit can be harmful to themselves if they chew something dangerous and also cause trouble for those around them. When given safe alternatives, such as a chewie for the act of biting, some of these fears can be reduced. Additionally, instructions on proper chewing skills can be taught and adapted to meet the individual’s sensory needs at the same time.
What are sensory chew toys?
Many sensory-seeking children, and those with various special needs, have different ways of seeking sensory information from their environment. They may turn to chewing when they feel bored, stressed, anxious, or need to focus on a task at hand.
Chew toys are helpful resources that can be calming, fun, improve concentration, and provide the necessary sensory input an individual is looking for. They can have different diameters, sizes and textures and can come in the form of jewelry, chew tubes, fidget toys, pencils and other items of daily use.
Do children with autism chew things?
As mentioned above, many children with autism seek to chew on objects when they are overstimulated, understimulated, bored or frustrated and do not know how to regulate these feelings. A child’s chewing helps regulate, relieve stress, and satisfy the feeling they crave.
Autism advocate Dan Jones, who runs the YouTube channel the Aspie world, said he tested different chewable gadgets. Explaining what causes him to chew, he said:
“That’s the problem, so I don’t know if you understand, but when I’m really stressed I tend to chew things up. Like I got mad and really like biting into things. Especially before like a crisis or during a crisis.“
When someone is displaying sensory seeking behavior, it’s always a good idea to try to figure out what the behavior might mean. Once a reason has been established, it helps parents find safe ways to meet the individual’s sensory needs.
How can I help my child who needs to chew?
There are a variety of chew tools available on the market today with sensory seekers as the primary target. Tools can be made of easy-to-clean fabric or food-grade silicone.
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There are specifics to look for when reviewing chew tools. The following list will help provide a starting point that keeps the safety of sensory-seeking children in mind, as well as what might benefit the individual’s needs, age and abilities.
What to look for in chew toys:
- Gentle and safe for teeth
- Easily cleaned
- Food grade silicone
- Durable, leaves no bite marks
- Make sure it’s big enough that the person can’t choke on it (but make sure it’s always used under supervision)
- Non-toxic, BPA/PVC free, latex free
- If worn around the neck, ensure there is a detachable clasp and watch to prevent strangulation
Where can I find chew toys?
As mentioned earlier in this article, there are many online retailers that offer a variety of chew toys that kids love. Parents and caregivers can browse the variety available and find the right size and texture chewing gum that would suit their child.
There are many well-known brick-and-mortar stores that also offer chewies. Generally, supermarkets have sensory toys in their toy department, and they can also be found in many toy stores.
Are there several types of chewies?
When looking for chewies, it is always important to keep the needs of children in mind. Also keep in mind mental and developmental abilities and the need for supervision with the different tools.
The different types of chewies:
- Collars: There are many chew necklaces available in many different styles. You can choose a pearl necklace, one with a small, medium or large charm, or a dog tag style. These collars should have a detachable clasp for the safety of the person using them and should also be used under supervision.
- Straps: Bracelets can take the form of a single thick, solid piece of food grade silicone, several thinner bracelets together, or a bracelet with one or more beads. They can also be expandable and/or offer other sensory inputs at the same time
- Chew tubes: These can be a single tube, look like a T or an L, be a spinner or another fidget that is safe and created for chewing. These are usually thick and durable, with a handle to hold while chewing.
- Over-pencils: It’s a safer alternative to pencil chewing. The pencils light up like an eraser and are there for the person to chew on while writing or performing another task that requires concentration, can be frustrating, or any other activity that might require oral stimulation from a chewy.
- Chewable stuffed animals: There are stuffed animals specially created to be chewed. Often stuffed animals are not stiff enough to withstand chewing and may split, posing a potential choking hazard. Chews were created with chewing in mind and are a safer alternative, with proper supervision.
Could chew toys work for us?
There is no single solution for all challenges because we are all different! It always depends on the person using the tool. If you think your family needs a chewy, I recommend checking them out online and trying out an age- and ability-appropriate pair.
This way, the person who needs the sensory input has a chance to chew on a suitable alternative on the little fingers, inside of the cheeks, and even on the clothes.
*The products mentioned in this article are not endorsed by or affiliated with Autism Parenting Magazine.
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