Do you have a student or does your own child seem to chew on EVERYTHING? Ok, maybe not everything but they have destroyed pencils and shirts galore. Well, the photos you see below are actual pictures of pencils chewed on by one of my students.
Maybe your student has been chewing all year long or maybe it started at a certain part of the year. For me, my little guy was a chewer most of the year but it got significantly worst as the end of the school year approached.
While I knew my little guy was a sensory seeker anyway. I feel that anxiety truly had something to do with the increase in oral seeking behaviors at the end of the school year. Transitions and the unknown can be very anxiety provoking and stressful for little people. Chewing provided proprioceptive input (heavy work/ deep pressure) into his mouth and the proprioceptive input was calming.
So, what did I do to help my little fella?
1) Experimented with several chewy tools to see which would work the best for him. - This little guy needed something sturdy because he was even biting off pieces of a chewy necklace. He also needed something with a strong lace to attach or a non-cloth attachment as he was chewing on this as well and destroyed a string necklace in one day.
2) Asked his mother if he could have crunchy and chewy snacks and drink from a water bottle that required a straw or sucking. We also tried chewing gum. - This provided another way to provided extra sensory input into his mouth.
3) I provided more opportunities for deep pressure input during sensory breaks and used a pressure vest. - He typically went for vestibular activities but we saw a difference in him and his ability to calm his body when he was provided with an appropriate amount of deep pressure input.
4) Wrote a social story and made a chew chart. He got frequently rewarded for engaging in expected chewing vs. unexpected chewing behaviors. - My little guy was already familiar with social stories, social thinking, and Zones of regulation. I used all of these approaches and consulted with my speech therapist to come up with his social story and chew chart.
Well, I wasn't able to stop him from chewy as much before the school year was over, but at least he was doing it in a safer and more socially appropriate manner. His mom was happier as she didn't have to replace as many shirts and his teachers were happier because he wasn't chewing up as many pencils. He was happy too. So, Cheers to the small steps in life!