I want to focus on one sensory system today, oral, and talk about chewing. Ruby has always chewed on everything. Really, every small spec that no one else could see she would spot and put in her mouth. She usually didn’t swallow the things she put in her mouth, but in they went. She would chew on stuffed animals (sorry Mr. Fluffy pants her beloved bunny), her clothes, toys, anything she came into contact with. With chewing, kids are trying to get sensory input through the things they chew, meaning that their bodies need some sensation in their mouth to help them regulate. But constant chewing can be a problem, especially after age 3 when chewing typically stops.
We had a OT that suggested chewelry, which is a necklace or bracelet that is safe to chew on. The idea is that if she is chewing on something that is safe that she won’t put unsafe things in her mouth.
Unfortunately for Ruby she chewed on everything but the chewelry. I could have tried harder to make her chew on it, but after several attempts we gave up. Ruby did not like wearing bracelets or necklaces, which was a big stumbling block.
So what else have we tried? Other types of food sensory inputs. Think about different types of tastes, textures, and temperatures. There are calming and alerting foods depending on what they need.
Think warm, smooth, comforting food, like pudding.
This is something that Ruby is drawn to. Crunchy (chips, carrots, goldfish, etc.). Sour foods (sour gummies), spicy and tart foods, cold foods. Carrots are really one of her favorites. I will even peel a whole carrot for her and she will eat the whole thing! We were given the idea of freezing fruit snacks as it would give the cold sensation and it would take a lot of muscles to chew (hard work). She liked it until she chocked on one…. Haven’t done it since, but she did stick a handful in her mouth at once, hence the problem. Some closer monitoring would have been a better idea. Here is more ideas for altering foods.
Ruby’s body needs this input. When she gets the oral input she needs I do see an improvement with her chewing, not to say it completely stops, but it does lessen. She does go in cycles of chewing. Sometimes she hardly does it and others she is chewing holes in her clothes. Chewing may also help her calm down in stressful situations as when she is more stressed or disregulated she is chewing more.
Ruby is still chewing, but she does chew on toys less and clothes more. That is something I can live with for now. When she is old enough, chewing gum may be a good solution for her but for now we are focusing on types of foods, and a facial massage protocol given by her current OT that includes massaging different parts of her mouth, chin, and cheeks to give her some input. I’ll keep you posted on any differences we see with using this protocol!