Oral Fixation And Autism
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Does your autistic child have a habit of chewing or biting their shirts? Is your child frequently caught putting their fingers in their mouth?
There’s a great solution to this problem! The solution involves directing this oral fixation towards objects that are meant to be chewed.
Life with autism requires the tools and the know-how to get through the average day. When dealing with oral fixations there are many options available for addressing the behavior; it’s a matter of knowing where to look.
First, let’s see what a sensory chewing disorder really is, and why it’s better to accommodate this need for anyone with an oral fixation disorder, than it is to punish the behavior.
Where Does The Oral Fixation Come From?
Sensory Chewing Disorders are very common among those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Oral fixation, a STIMMING behavior (Short for self stimulation), acts as a calming mechanism. This fixation can lead to obsessive chewing, biting, and sucking on random objects.
Sensory processing disorders (SPD), such as these, aren’t a matter of getting the individual to simply stop the bad habit. Instead, think of STIMMING behaviors in the same way that you would think of taking an deep breath to calm down when you’re stressed.
Fidgeting hands, flapping arms, and oral stimulation are all methods that individuals with autism will use to help sooth the effects of sensory overloads.
Proprioception is the way in which we perceive the world around us; in relation to our bodies. Imagine a world in which you weren’t able to understand, or differentiate where you were in time, or space.
A world where you always feel detached from your surroundings, and your physical body. As a result, you fail to process the distance of objects, or that they even exist when navigating a room.
Though you can see everything around you, your mind simply can’t process the information.
Now apply all of those feelings, not only to the world around you, but to your body itself. Your left hand, literally, doesn’t know where the right hand is in this world.
Not only that, but some of your senses are dulled in a way that requires higher amounts of pressure to experience the sense of touch or feel.
If you can imagine all of this, then you have a good chance of understanding why STIMMING behaviors exist.
It’s no wonder why chewing on objects would be soothing to those with ASD. The added pressure from biting down on objects allows the autistic child to actually feel their teeth and mouth.
In short, this action provides a sense of being, and physical existence, that is lacking through most of the day. Also known as oral STIMMING.
This isn’t a phenomenon of autism. Individuals who aren’t experiencing sensory disorders utilize this oral hypo-sensitivity tactic as well.
Examples would be chewing gum, and clenching teeth during moments of frustration. These activities produce the same stimulation used to sooth and relax stress.
Autistic children tend to need a lot more of this stimulation than the average person. Therefore, people with ASD need special tools made from materials that support such persistent biting and chewing.
When a child is left to chew on whatever they can find, the quality of the tool used to sooth their senses may do a lot of harm to their physical health.
Cloth Objects – Gather germs, break down quickly, cause internal injuries from swallowing threads, and cause horrid breath.
Soft Solids – Foams, rubbers, and plastics can provide choking hazards due to quickly breaking down into pieces.
Hard Objects – Damaged or broken teeth that may require further surgery and pain.
These are just some of the physical health concerns that come with not providing the proper tools for soothing oral fixation disorders.
Not to mention the heads of dolls, action figures, and mom or dad’s TV remote.
As with anything regarding autism, it is better to have a plan, and in this case- the options are easily affordable and safe.
Our Friend In Science
Luckily, people with lab coats have figured out how to provide a durable device that can sooth the sensory needs without posing a health risk.
Not only have these lab coats figured out how to make these durable tools, they’ve made them to fit into everyday life without any hold up.
The cost and fashion of the chewelry is up to the buyer. What’s important, is that you know that they aren’t all made the same.
For instance, the four T’s you see here are colored differently because they are each made to different densities and textures.
The blue one’s are tougher, than the red, which is tougher than the green one, and so on.
When it comes to the more appealing and/or decorative chewers, densities and quality vary a decent amount.
As a result, the T shaped Chew Tubes are a common, long term solution, at a low cost. The T shape allows for easier grip, and they hold up for a long time without cracking, breaking, or fraying.
The cross on the T is also hollow which allows for you to use a thin lanyard (with a safety clasp) to easily convert them into a necklace.
This is a great option for someone who needs a chewing necklace for their autistic child.
Not only are chewers and chewelry great for oral fixations and sensory stimulation, they are essential for a child with ASD.
It’s good to start out with a variety pack, like the ones pictured above, and see which style and firmness works best for your child.
Once you have that figured it out, you’ll be pleased to find that not only are they low cost, but they last such a long time, that it’s a no brainer to have them on hand.
For more information on what autism is see the following:
Autism Brings It! – What Is Autism?
Autism Speaks – What is Autism?