Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chewing Issues and Chewelry

A lot of children on the spectrum or with other sensory needs have tendency to seek oral stimulation by chewing. In fact, chewing issues are far more common than you'd think and they have a lot of negative implications. In this post, I look at some of the chewing issues my children (and I) have and look at a great product for reducing the problem.


Chewing on Shirts
In my eldest son's case, his chewing mainly affects his clothing. He chews on his shirt collars, fronts and sleeves and his clothes often look tattered after only having been worn once or twice.

There are a lot of negatives associated with chewing. For a start, chewing tends to bring children to the attention of bullies - particularly when the child has to walk around with a buttonless shirt or a shirt with holes in the front.

Then there's the smell. It doesn't take long for chewed shirts to stink. In fact, they usually start to smell after a few hours. You can imagine the sorts of social issues this causes.

Then, there's the cost. Shirts aren't cheap - particularly school shirts. Even worse, chewing on branded objects such as a school hat with a logo, a scout scarf or heaven forbid a scout shirt covered in badges can result in some signficant costs.

Finally, there's the matter of self-esteem. The reaction of others to chewing and even the constant correction from parents can make a child lose their self worth. These children don't want to chew. They don't set out to destroy their clothing just to make their parents angry. They're chewing to settle their nerves in much the same way as we subconsciously scratch an itch.


Other Manifestations of Chewing
It's funny but when my eldest son first started chewing, my initial reaction was; "I don't know why he chews. I didn't chew when I was younger". Then a few days later I looked down at the top of the pen I was using and I remembered how my pens and pencils at school didn't run out - they always got eaten first.

My parents eventually gave me a metal parker pen to prevent me from chewing it. It didn't get chewed, but it did rust. I didn't have the same chewing issues as my son, mine simply manifested in different ways. Even worse, I can remember having bleeding gums from the sharp edges of my pen as my chewing turned it from a mere writing implement to an instrument of self-harm. If only I had something safer to chew on.

I've also noticed that my youngest child is constantly hungry, even five minutes after a major meal. He was always mouthing and chewing toys as an infant and indeed he often still does it now though usually he'll go after food instead.

He's not really hungry for food. He's hungry for sensation.


Chewelry: A Neat Solution to the Chewing Problems
A few months ago, I won a contest on the Gift blog. and got some Chewelry for my children. I'd actually been looking at the site with intent to buy but the heart shapes and pastel colors were putting me off. They looked a little "babyish" for my kids (aged 7 and 10).

At the time I won the competition, my son had just eaten a hole in his NEW school shirt and things were tough at home. He was also drawing a lot of undue attention to himself at school and scouts by eating his clothing and as you can imagine, his mother and I weren't too happy either.

I chose black and white chewelry and went for a circle shape because I thought it would be less obvious and more masculine. My wife later asked my why I hadn't gone for the blue one which matched his school uniform shirt (now I understand the colour range).

The black and white chewelry has a sort of "ying-yang" feel to it and we got the version with the lanyard rather than the pin-on version. This has turned out well because more often than not, my son chews on the lanyard rather than the chewelry.

That's not to say that the chewelry iself is unchewed, simply that it's not as popular as the lanyard. The best thing though is that while he's wearing it, he's not chewing his shirt. The smell seems to have gone and despite our fears, none of his peers have given him the slightest bit of trouble over the chewelry.

The only problem we have now is finding it when he's gotten changed and dumped his clothes on the floor. He likes it and understands how it helps him but remembering to put it on in the morning is a different thing altogether.

It's surprising how a small thing like this can make such an improvement in his life.

You can browse and buy Chewelry online at http://www.chewelry.ca/ and you'll find a lot of other information on chewing stims on their blog site at http://kidcompanions.blogspot.com/.

20 comments:

Lindsay said...

That's a really good idea! Yay chewelry!

(I actually didn't chew on things when I was younger --- my sensory issues run more towards needing to *avoid* stimulation than needing to seek it out. I actually don't even chew gum, since chewing it is so much work/something else I have to think about!)

Jess Kahele said...

Thanks for this post on chewing. My aspie son is also a clothing chewer, as well as plastic toys and video game controllers.

lynnes said...

My son also chews constantly. It was one of his first quirks, as he developed teeth he chewed on his crib. First he flipped off the plastic guard to chew the wood and once we screwed it permanently into place, he moved to the sides to chew there. Chewelry worked for several years, until he started noticing he was different from other kids and rejected the neclaces and chewy tubes. So now we have gum written into his accomodations. Gum is 'cooler' than chewy tubes so it meets his needs in an acceptable way.

Marita said...

We got some chewelery for Heidi a few months ago, unfortunately for us she chewed it to pieces in under a fortnight. It was not as sturdy as her chewy tube.

Now we have chewy tubes at home, but provide straws and a variety of crunchy foods to feed the oral fixation at school.

Couple years back a I saw chewable pencil toppers and I've been hunting for them since to buy some.

Ari said...

Those chewing toys are neat, and would be so much better than chewing on my lips until they bleed. I wish they weren't so prohibitively expensive though, that's just too much money for something that only lasts a month or two.

Apples and Autobots said...

Thank you! I will definitely check them out. My son, like your oldest chewed his shirts. However, he got teased about it, so he has turned to chewing paper during class instead. He doesn't like chewey tubes, so maybe this will be a better alternative.

Heather said...

My son will not use them unless he's at home. He recognizes that not all the kids use something to chew on and he doesn't want to look different. So, the shirt collar/sleeve/etc. comes home wet nearly everyday. Glad it works for your kiddo!

Ian said...

I am in my 50s and recently diagnosed with AS (I also live in Sydney and work in IT). I used to bite my fingernails as a child, but got over that by switching to chewing pens. Every pen I used, even into adulthood, was heavily chewed and fraying at the end. Then along came PCs and I now use (and chew) pens much less often. And you can't really chew keyboards! Result: calluses began appearing on my knuckles and I eventually realised that I am now chewing my fingers. I sit, staring at the monitor, finger in mouth chomping away.

Stephanie said...

We've tried a variety of chewable accessories. Willy's had things to stick on the tops of pencils and pens, and he's enjoyed some of those. Ben and Alex both use Ps, which are rubbery grabbers in the shape of a P. Though, they don't gravitate to them. Ben has also had a key clip with a rubber string and a then a rubber hose. That works well, when he remembers.

It's never prevented chewing of other items, though. At least not independently. When we see chewing we try to substitute. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

I used to chew on my clothing as a child as well. It was less a sensory seeking thing than a proprioceptive pressure thing. Apparently, the jaw is a powerful place in which to do joint compressions, since they reverberate throughout the body. Doing joint compressions with your jaw is *extremely* relaxing.

It also explains why *all* of my pencils and pens were chewed up at the ends when I was a kid, and why I still grind my teeth when I'm particularly stressed.

Danette said...

I am familiar with these products and have always thought they looked great. But I was thinking they were for younger kids, so I appreciate the real-life experience!

C Fernando Maciel said...

I chew my fingernails like crazy! There's just not a strategy that will make me stop, despite of all my attempts to.

I understand that there's a problem with colors for us aspies. Is that true? I was for my entire life treated as color-blind, but I am quite sure I can see colors, I make very well the difference between red and green. Just some colors don't make sense to me, and they are not the ones listed for a color blind person. Just random, sometimes I may have problems with blue, some other occasion with green or brown. And when I see a plate or pamphlet printed in red on gray background it just hurts my eyes, it makes me dizzy or drowsy, is this related with being AS?

Geniferous said...

I'm in my 40s and I've chewed on stuff all my life, including my t-shirts when I was little. Unfortunately, I now clench my teeth when I sleep and I have to wear an occlusal guard. (If you wake up every morning with a headache, this may be the reason.) I don't know if the 2 are related. I think it's pretty easy to get away with chewing on a pen or pencil at school or work without drawing attention to yourself.

SpaceHamster said...

:D Thank you! Now, I'm understand why I chewed my pillows, T-shirts and my fingers. I did it to stimulate my gums with gentle chewing.

Diane said...

Hi.

Rachel mentioned your blog to me in a comment on a scouting post of mine. She mentioned your family having positive experiences with scouting and thought we'd have some things in common, so I thought I'd come by and take a look.

My attention was immediately drawn to this post. My Aspie/HFA son(he did have a speech delay, but nobody has gotten very formal with his diagnosis) chewed holes in his clothing for years. An OT tried giving him things like pieces of rubber tubing to chew on, but since it wasn't attached to him, he'd quickly lose track of it. Somehow it never occured to me to put something around his neck.

I'm not sure at what point he seemed to move beyond this particular habit. I still find clothing with telltale holes when I'm going through things to find hand-me-downs. Now he just seems to chew on writing implements, which I do as well, and his fingernails. I hadn't thought about this in a while until I read your post.

I like your blog and look forward to reading more .

Anonymous said...

"A lot of children on the spectrum or with other sensory needs have tendency to seek oral stimulation by chewing. In fact, chewing issues are far more common than you'd think..."

When I was a kid the school had chewed-up pencils *all over the place*.

"Chewing on ShirtsIn my eldest son's case, his chewing mainly affects his clothing. He chews on his shirt collars, fronts and sleeves and his clothes often look tattered after only having been worn once or twice."

So much for the hype about school uniforms making kids look the same and not get hassled for how they dress!

"Chewelry: A Neat Solution to the Chewing Problems"

They need to market those things to the people who wear pacifiers at raves: http://fashionindie.com/ghost-of-fashion-past-the-pacifier/ Then they could lower the prices and these things wouldn't cost so much for families with children.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy I found this blog! My daughters are both cloth destroyer. And myself I destroy pens and pencils! I go look at this chewlry as soon as I can. Thank you all, at least I am not alone! And yes we are aspies.

Anonymous said...

I'm 12 w/ PDD NOS and I really want some chewelry!!!!

Anonymous said...

I landed here looking for an alternative to pen chewing for my ADHD/Aspie son, and remembered that he used to tear at his class papers and chew the strips of paper, but it's amazing the things you forget! I had forgotten that my son also used to chew his shirts, and hadn't associated his past chewing of stuffed animals and, yes, his crib, with this!

Anonymous said...

I chew on t-shirts, socks and towels,(mainly white)when they've directly come from.the dryer, I.stimulated by the detergent smell and taste, especially Era. It is a habit that comes in spurts, mainly when I've quit smoking ciggarettes. I am wondering if this oral fixation is my substitute?