Oral stimulation is often an outlet for young children and children with autism. Though not everything is safe to be put into the mouth. If your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or your child is young and being evaluated for ASD, providing them with the right sensory chew toys lends toward safety as well as the oral stimulation that they need.
Why Some Children With ASD Benefit from Chew Toys
There are several reasons why a child with ASD can benefit from chew toys. Not the least of which is that it keeps them from chewing on their clothing and other everyday objects that might not be safe to put in their mouth.
For many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder chewing and oral stimulation helps to reduce feelings of nervousness and anxiety. This means that chewing can be very calming for children with ASD. Especially in times when they might be overstimulated.
Identifying Chewing Triggers
When your child is young it can be hard to identify the triggers that engage their need for chewing or oral stimulation. As they get older, you might notice chewing behaviors starting around specific activities. This might be things like:
- Waiting to go to school
- Getting ready to do homework
- When exposed to strong visual stimuli
- Watching an exciting TV show
- Listening to loud music
Identifying the more common triggers why your child with ASD starts chewing will help you not only to better understand their emotional state, but it will also help you be better prepared to give them the safe sensory chew toys they need to positively manage the experience.
What Are Sensory Chew Toys
As the term implies sensory chew toys are often simple, soft objects that can be held in the hand and safely chewed on. The best sensory chew toys for children with autism spectrum disorder tend to be made from safe, non-toxic materials, such as silicone or fabric.
Sensory chew toys for children with ASD are available in a wide range of textures. Many are smooth while others have ridges or textural raised patterns.
Increased awareness of the benefits of sensory chew toys has increased their popularity to the point that there are many options on the market. The ones that are best for your child will depend on their preferences.
Choosing the Best Sensory Chew Toys for Your Child With ASD
The key is to identify the best toy for them might start with finding something similar to unhealthy objects that they are currently obsessed with chewing. This way, you can introduce other potential interventions, such as increased movement.
So take the time to consider where, when and what your child chews. Also, consider if your child often chews at the back of their mouth, do they crunch on things with their premolars, do they nibble with their front teeth, or do they just like to suck on things?
Knowing where in your child’s mouth they chew, can help you choose the best option for them. You can then factor in how hard they chew. The more they like to bite down hard, the tougher the chew toy you should prioritize.
Also, consider the textures and shapes they prefer. If your child with ASD mostly likes to chew on clothing a fabric chew might be better than a silicone one.
Finding Sensory Chew Toys That Are Easy to Maintain
Finding a sensory chew toy that is easy to maintain is just as much about the longevity of the toy as it is the ability to quickly clean it and keep it in a sanitary condition. It’s best to avoid cheap alternatives and lesser products that are often made with single-use plastics that contain BPA.
Non-toxic silicone is often the preferred material for sensory chew toys. A lot of them are dishwasher safe, as well as very durable. Though it’s also wise to get two or three identical versions of the same sensory chew toy. This will allow you to clean one, while your child still has access to another identical copy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Sensory Chew Toys Age Appropriate & Socially Acceptable?
There is a little bit of controversy connected to the use of sensory chew toys. Though one likely won’t look out of place for children with significant learning disabilities. They are often commonplace in a specialist school and surrounded by other children who have chew toys. This is also true for younger children under the age of five.
Though for children with ASD who attend mainstream schools where there is often a high level of social awareness, a sensory chew toy might not be appropriate in the academic or social setting. The excessive use of sensory chew toys might draw unwanted attention from your child’s peers, and the last thing you want is to introduce additional stressors into their educational experience.
Are Sensory Chew Toys Dishwasher Safe?
Non-toxic silicone sensory chew toys for children with autism spectrum disorder are generally dishwasher safe. Though you can just as easily hand wash them with warm soapy water. Fabric sensory chew toys are often washing machine safe. Though you should always read the care and cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer.
How to Introduce Sensory Chew Toys
If you’re not 100% clear about your child’s chew toy preferences, you might want to start out by offering an assortment. Then place them where your child is most likely to use them. For example, let’s you’ve noticed your child frequently chewing when they are doing their homework, keep one on their homework desk.
Once you find a few that they prefer, you might want to buy duplicates or triplicates. This lets you have another identical copy on hand if one is ever lost, misplaced, or simply due for a good deep cleaning.
Sensory chew toys are a great way to provide your autistic child with a healthy outlet for their established chewing habit. They can serve as a stress reliever as well as a way to help your child focus. By paying close attention to their chewing triggers and providing them with the size and texture they prefer you can give your child a safe alternative to chewing on everyday items.
This is a place where you get what you pay for. So be prepared to make a sound investment in high-quality Sensory chew toys. After all, what you’re ultimately buying is the peace of mind that your child is putting safe high-quality objects in your mouth. They’re durable, easy to maintain, and easy to keep in a sanitary condition.