Many people tend to chew on anything they can get their hands on. Children with autism spectrum disorder who have sensory processing disorders can often seek oral stimulation. You may have noticed your child with special needs chew on pencils, hair, clothing, fingers—and other objects.
This behavior can cause kids with autism to put unsafe or unsanitary items in their mouths. Parents should offer their children alternatives, such as sugar-free gum or a sensory chew toy. This article will cover why you should buy a chew toy for your autistic child and how to select the best one.
Why Autistic Children Seek Oral Stimulation
As a parent of an autistic child who is an aggressive chewer, you might wonder why your little one likes chewing on everything.
Is it anxiety? Is it sensory stimulation? Or is it just attention seeking?
There are several reasons why your child likes to chew on things. One of the most common reasons is to help reduce anxiety. Chewing is calming for autistic children, especially when overstimulated. Research suggests that 40% of children with autism have an anxiety disorder and have trouble managing their emotions.
If you often see your child chewing on his shirt or other objects when stressed or appearing upset about something, he might need help. Seek professional help to get more insight into your child’s behavior.
Another reason is that the child seeks sensory stimulation. You should look for common signs of a sensory seeker, such as:
- Enjoying strong smells
- Seeking visual stimulation
- Struggling to stay still
Chewing is a calming and repetitive activity, which can often lead to pica. Pica is a habit of swallowing non-food items like paper and dirt. It’s critical to alert your child’s doctor if he has pica and have him properly evaluated.
There are rare cases where children chew and swallow items to seek attention. This happens because you don’t have time to spend with your child, and he struggles to express that need. A teenager with autism once swallowed batteries because he wanted to avoid school and spend time with his parents.
What Is Sensory Chewelry?
In simple terms, sensory chew toys are hand-held objects made with safe materials, like non-toxic silicone or fabric. Since they are meant to provide sensory stimulation for autistic children, sensory chewelry comes in various textures: some are smooth, while others have ridges.
Many chew toys available on the market are easy to clean. However, keep in mind your child’s preferences; they might love one toy but altogether avoid another. The key is to identify the best toy for them. For example, your child likes to chew on pencils. Find a safe pencil for him to chew on. Both chewy tubes and pencil toppers are excellent choices for kids with autism.
What Are the Benefits?
Autism chew toys and other oral sensory toys will help reduce the need to chew. In addition, it provides the oral sensory input the autistic child needs. Often, kids with autism who are aggressive chewers also have difficulty developing good communication skills.
The Best Chew Toys for Autistic Children
Let’s get into the twelve best chew toys for autistic children.
Tilcare Chew Chew Necklace
Tilcare's sensory chewing necklace provides a safe, therapeutic outlet for biting, anxiety, and stress. It produces a calming effect for kids and adults, eliminating the need for chewing on hair or clothing, as well as reducing nail-biting and thumb sucking. They necklace also comes in vibrant and calming colors that are perfect for autistic children and aggressive chewers. Furthermore, each chew pendant features a breakaway clasp that prevents choking and accidents. Made with 100% food-grade silicone, the necklace is free of BPA, latex, or phthalates.
ARK’s Brick Stick Chew Necklace
This chewelry necklace is a safe, wearable, and discreet solution for children who like to chew. It’s long enough to reach the molars, and it’s perfect for those who don’t need the added texture. The child can use it to keep calm, soothe, and self-regulate during stressful situations. In addition, the necklace also helps increase focus.
Each necklace comes with a breakaway clasp that keeps your child safe. A breakaway clasp will prevent strangulation and breakage when pulled on.
Red Chewy Tubes
If your child chews on inappropriate objects or needs to practice chewing, then Chewy Tubes provide a safe, resilient, non-food, and chewable surface. It can redirect the problematic chewing behavior and help the child develop proper chewing skills. The tubes come in different diameters and are recognizable by their color.
SunFuture Chew Necklace
Made with 100% food-grade safety, this chew necklace is FDA-approved. It's non-toxic, BPA-free, and contains no phthalates. Furthermore, it's extremely durable and made with gentle silicone. It's soft enough to encourage a therapeutic and calming effect. Helps reduce anxiety and stress for people with sensory input disorders. You can also easily clean the necklace with soap and water.
Spiky Sensory Ring
Monkey Rings are great when it comes to sensory toys. They provide fantastic chewing toys; their toys also act as fidget toys. The child can twist, throw, squeeze, and grab the toys, perfect for sensory and tactile stimulation.
The spiky sensory ring is made with 100% high-quality thermoplastic rubber. They are also hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and free of phthalates, latex, and BPAs. The spiky rings are strong, durable, safe, and dishwasher safe.
Chewy Pencil Grips
These chewy pencil grips fit any number 2 pencil but have decreased lead exposure. Don’t worry; the pencil topper is safe for teeth and is socially acceptable so that you can take them to classrooms. This way, it increases attention, lowers anxiety levels, and can improve concentration skills in children with ASD.
Fabric Chew Necklace
It’s good to buy a fabric chew necklace if your child likes to chew on clothing or other fabrics. Instead of munching on unsafe materials, you can direct your child to the necklace. This way, you will ensure your child will get the sensory stimulation he’s seeking without being exposed to harmful materials.
Munchables Dragon Chew Necklace
Munchables is a Canadian company highly recommended by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. They offer an impressive range of quality chewelry products, even zipper pulls. For example, each chewable necklace from Munchables has a breakaway clasp for added safety.
But let’s talk about their dragon chew necklace. It features a tribal design on the front and a raised fin shape on the back for added sensory interest. Munchables products act as modern sensory aids that divert chewing and provide a focal point of interest for children to filter out excess sensory information.
Teardrop Chew Necklace
These teardrop necklaces are safe and non-toxic, made with 100% food grade silicone. The necklaces are easy to clean in the dishwasher or by hand wash. Furthermore, the necklace is discreet and has a stylish design with a breakaway clasp for safety. The versatile design calms and improves focus for moderate chewers. If you are looking for another style, the company has cars, owls, puzzles, donut, ice creams, stars, or lollipops.
This innovative oral motor device is designed to provide a chewable and resilient surface for practicing biting and chewing skills. Small and large jaws will enjoy the tactile input, which is meant for fun and therapeutic use. Furthermore, it helps improve jaw stability and provides excellent sensory input.
How to Choose the Best Sensory Chew Toys
Choosing a suitable chew toy can be daunting, especially since so many toys are available. Before you delve into this, ask yourself:
- When and how does my child chew? Maybe they nibble at the back of their mouth or suck on items. Knowing this will help you choose the best option for your little one. If they bite, they might want a tougher chew toy. If they only suck, they’ll prefer a softer toy.
- What texture or shape does my child prefer? Consider the material and texture of their favorite item; some prefer chewing on clothing or other materials.
- Are the sensory chew toys age-appropriate? For children with significant disabilities, it won’t look out of place for them to have a sensory chew. The same is true for younger children who might be surrounded by other children with chew toys. However, for a child with a high level of social awareness, a sensory chew toy might not be appropriate. They won’t want to look different and draw unwanted attention from their peers. Since every child is different, individualized support is the best option.
It’s recommended to work with your child to determine which chew toy is the best. In addition, consider where your child falls on the spectrum. By working together, you will figure out the best option in no time.
Tips for Choosing Chew Toys
The first important tip is to avoid cheap products. They are mostly made with single-use plastics containing BPA, an industrial chemical with potential endocrine-disrupting effects. BPA will mimic or interfere with your autistic child’s hormones, so always opt for safe sensory chew toys.
It’s also vital to have a cleaning schedule. Always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and clean the chew toy regularly.
When it comes to the shape and size of the toy, it’s good to keep this in mind. If your child likes to chew at the back of their mouth, then a longer toy with a P, I, or X shape is ideal. Those who suck with their front teeth prefer rounder and softer toys. For children who don’t like obvious sensory toys, chewelry and pencil toppers are excellent options.
You can also buy a plastic container where you can encourage your child to put the chew toys in when the toys are not in use. You can put the container on the desk, and it doesn’t need to be fancy. Its purpose is to be a place where you can store toys. This way, toys are easier to find, and it’s more hygienic than the child leaving the toy around an unsafe surface.
Or just use lanyards. A lanyard can help a child keep the chew toy with them. Parents can make their own lanyards utilizing a piece of ribbon or a safety pin to affix the chew toy to the child’s clothing. It all depends on your child’s individual needs.
How to Use Autism Chew Toys
- You can pair a sensory chew toy with positive reinforcement. Make chewing on a toy fun. Add another fun activity like listening to music to truly boost the experience.
- Each time your child is sucking on a no-no piece of clothing or toy, replace that object with the chew toy to make the chewing behavior appropriate.
- You can create special chewing times during the day. Print the photo of the favorite chew toy and add it to your child’s visual schedule.
Alternatives to Sensory Chew Toys
Older children might prefer sugar-free gum. But, if you use this alternative, it’s best to establish some rules about using the gum first. For example: “No bubble blowing,” or “Keep it inside your mouth.”
You can also use two pieces of gum as it gives more resistance during chewing. Include different chewy foods in snack packs and during meal times. Here are some chewy foods you can try:
- Dried fruit (mango, apple, papaya, or pineapple)
- Muesli bars