Finding the perfect chewy for autism can benefit those children with a need to chew. However, there are many different chew toys available on the market that range from chewy tubes to chewable jewelry that are textured and help with different tactile needs. When searching for the perfect chewy, it’s hard to know where to start!
In this article I will round-up some ideas and products which parents may wish to investigate further. But, before we delve into that, it’s important to think about the reason why your child is choosing to chew.
Why is my child chewing on their clothes?
People who have the sensory need to chew, like those with sensory processing disorder and autism, tend to chew on items in their environment to fulfill their sensory needs. Things like clothing, the side of their mouth, tongue, fingers, or other objects that they have around them.
This habit can be harmful to themselves if they chew something unsafe and also cause problems with those around them. When given safe alternatives, such as a chewie for the act of practicing biting, some of these fears can be reduced. Plus, instruction in proper chewing skills can be taught and adapted to provide for the sensory needs of the individual at the same time.
What are sensory chew toys?
Many sensory seeking children, and those with varying special needs, have different ways of seeking sensory input from their environment. They might turn to chewing when they feel bored, stressed, anxious, or have to focus on a task at hand.
Chew toys are helpful resources that can calm, be fun, improve focus, and provide the necessary sensory input the individual is seeking out. They can have different diameter, sizes, and different textures and can come in the form of jewelry, chewy tubes, fidget toys, pencil toppers, and other daily use items.
Do kids with autism chew things?
As mentioned above, there are many autistic children that seek to chew on items when they are overstimulated, understimulated, bored, or frustrated and don’t know how to regulate those feelings. A child’s chewing helps regulate, relieve stress, and satisfy the sensation they are looking for.
Autistic advocate Dan Jones, who runs the YouTube channel The Aspie World, said he has tested different chewy gadgets. Explaining what leads him to chewing, he said:
“That’s the thing, so I don’t know if you guys get this but when I get really stressed I kind of tend to just chew on things. Like I just get mad and like really to bite down on things. Especially before like a meltdown or during a meltdown.“
When someone is displaying sensory seeking behavior, it is always a good idea to try and figure out what the behavior could mean. Once a reason has been established, it helps parents to come up with safe ways to meet the sensory needs of the individual.
How can I help my child who needs to chew?
There are a variety of chewy tools available on the market today with sensory seekers as the main target. The tools can be made of easy to clean fabric or food grade silicone.
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There are specifics to look for when considering chewy tools. The following list will help provide a starting point that keeps the safety of sensory seeking children in mind, along with what could benefit the individual’s needs, age, and abilities.
What to look for in chewie toys:
- Soft and safe for teeth
- Easily cleaned
- Food grade silicone
- Durable, doesn’t have bite marks left behind
- Make sure it’s big enough so the individual cannot choke on it (but ensure it is still used with supervision)
- Non-toxic, BPA/PVC free, latex free
- If it is worn around the neck, make sure there is a breakaway clasp and supervision to prevent strangulation
Where do I find chew toys?
As stated earlier in this article, there are numerous online retailers with a variety of chewing toys that kids love. Parents and caregivers can look through the variety available and find chewies that are just the right size and texture that would work for their child.
There are plenty of well known brick and mortar stores that also carry chewies. Typically superstores have sensory toys in their toy department, and they can also be found in many toy stores.
Are there many types of chewies available?
When looking for chewies it is always important to keep the needs of the children in mind. Also keep mental and developmental abilities in mind and the need for supervision with the different tools.
The different types of chewies:
- Necklaces: There are numerous chewy necklaces available in many different styles. You could choose a bead necklace, one with a small, medium, or large charm, or a dog tag style. These necklaces should have a breakaway clasp for the safety of the person using them and should also be used with supervision
- Bracelets: The bracelets can take the form of a single, thick, and solid piece of food grade silicone, multiple thinner bracelets together, or a bracelet with a single or multiple beads. They can also be stretchy and/or offer other sensory inputs at the same time
- Chewy tubes: These can be a single tube, look like a T or L, be a spinner or other fidget that is safe and created for chewing. These are generally thick and durable, with a handle to hold while chewing
- Pencil toppers: This is a safer alternative to chewing the pencil. The pencil toppers go on like an eraser and are there for the person to chew when they are writing or doing another task that requires focus, can be frustrating, or any other activity that could warrant needing the oral stimulation of a chewy
- Chewable stuffies: There are stuffed animals that are created specifically for chewing. A lot of times stuffed animals aren’t rigid enough to withstand chewing and can split open, causing a potential choking hazard. The chewable stuffed animals were created with chewing in mind and are a safer alternative, with proper supervision
Could chewy toys work for us?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to any challenge as we are all different! It is always dependent on the person using the tool. If you think there is a need for a chewy in your family, I would recommend checking them out online and trying out a couple that are age and ability appropriate.
That way the person needing the sensory input has a chance of chewing on an appropriate alternative to little fingers, the insides of cheeks, and even clothing.
*The products mentioned within this article are not endorsed by or affiliated with Autism Parenting Magazine.