Baby, don’t eat that!

28 September 2015

As babies, it is essential that we explore our environment with every possible sense we have. Touch things, look at things, smell things, hear things, and of course…. taste things. Infants are often caught with all kinds of things in their mouths!

As we learn and grow, we are soon taught what to, and what not to put in our mouths. Some children with sensory processing challenges may seek out extra sensory input to help them regulate their bodies. One form of sensory seeking behaviour can utilise our Oral (mouth) sense. Often this is seen in children who are always chewing on their pencil, collar of their shirt, hair, fingers, or anything else nearby!

For some, this may even mean eating – actually consuming and swallowing – non-food items. If this is extreme and persistent, please seek medical advice as your child may have symptoms of pica.

Children who are sensory seeking should ultimately be seen by a professional Occupational Therapist to ensure that their sensory needs are being met. If your child truly has sensory processing challenges than this needs to be addressed by a professional.

There are many ways to help your sensational child seek out oral input in a socially acceptable way.

Try the following:

  • Behavioural rewards such as a reward chart (how many ‘chew free’ days can we have)
  • Incorporating accessible chewy or crunchy snacks as appropriate throughout the day. Make sure they are healthy!
  • Altering the sensory seeking “sense” from oral to touch, by giving your child a ‘fidgit toy’. Fidget toys are small, discreet toys that are fluffy, squishy, spiky or otherwise novel/interesting for your child to play with instead of chewing.

If your child requires further assistance to help support their chewing and mouthing behaviours, then your best bet is to call an occupational therapist. They specialise in sensory processing challenges such as oral motor seeking behaviours.

Written by

Aimee York

Aimee York is the Director and Principal OT of KinderCloud. She is experienced in the assessment and intervention of children and adolescents. In particular, Aimee has a special interest area of working with children and adolescents who experience difficulties with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Global Developmental Delays, attention and behavioural difficulties, social skills, functional skills (including toileting and feeding), School Readiness and pre-school academic skills, gross motor skills, fine motor skills and sensory processing.

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