Issue 23, Kids who NEED to chew, suck and bite
In the last issue, I wrote about 3 sensory based summer activities for touch. I hope you had fun with them! Summer is over, school is back, and this issue is all about kids who NEED to chew, suck, and bite!
Transitioning back to school is often a time when some kids ramp up their NEED to chew, suck or bite. These are the kids who come home with wet shirts and chewed school supplies. These children seem to NEED to chew on their toys, and bite furniture and sometimes people!
Why does this happen?
• Sucking, chewing, swallowing and breathing (of course) is important for paying attention and feeling “just right” for the situation you are in. It can help people to perk up when feeling tired or calm down when feeling excited. Think about how many adults smoke cigarettes, chew their finger nails, chew gum/stir sticks, sigh when stressed, or need crunchy chips!
• Did you know that sucking or mouthing activities exercise the eye muscles and focus the eyes forward (which helps with paying attention). Try it…use a straw to drink a liquid while looking downward with your eyes closed…you can feel your eyes move inward!
o Blowing activities exercise the opposite eye muscles, pulling the eyes outward.
• We don’t always realize it but chewing exercises the jaw muscles and can be a form of heavy muscle work, depending on what is being chewed. We know that heavy muscle work is regulating for our bodies and brains.
• A less well known fact is about the Palmar Reflex …babies are born with a reflex that connects the palms with the movements of the mouth (sucking and kneading). Children who have retained this reflex can be seen licking the lips, sticking out the tongue or twisting the mouth when they have something in their hands, for example, when learning how to print, draw or use scissors. If this reflex remains, fine motor skills and speech skills are difficult to master efficiently.
What can be done?
• Recognize that this is a NEED not a want. Children don’t want to have a wet shirt or chew their school supplies…they can’t help it! Consider purchasing oral motor tools.
• Recognize that this might mean your child is dysregulated and needs some help to feel calmer. Do what you can to create structure, consistency and calmness. Slow down your life for awhile!
• Understand that certain foods and textures may also be regulating. Try to include these items in your child’s diet.
o Heavy muscle work foods can include gum, fruit leather, and other “chewy foods” such as bagels, gummies, beef jerky…
o Alerting foods might also include sour or tart flavours such as lemons, pickles, spice, cranberry flavour, etc. Some people use carbonated beverages to wake up their mouth and mind!
• Consider games that include blowing such as bubbles, bobble pipes, silent blow pipes, or using wind instruments that require coordination of breathing and blowing. Blowing games help children to take a “deep breathe” without even knowing it! Deep breathing is effective for calming but many children lack the body awareness to do it when asked.
• If you suspect your child is having a Palmar reflex response, prior to fine motor tasks, place sustained pressure on their palms. They can push their own hands together or you can use your hands to place downward onto their palms and then upward (they need to push back into your hands).
Some Tool Resources: Local: www.zensationssensorysolutions.com/
• Diamond Athletics, Retail Outlet
Reflex Resources: www.rhythmicmovementtraining.com or
contact Rosanne at www.discoveriesintherapy.com