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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mouthing

Janey puts everything in her mouth.  This is a behavior that hasn't gotten a bit better over time.  Lately, it seems worse.  If she gets a new toy or stuffed animal, the absolute first way she explores it is by putting it in her mouth.  Researching this, I found most toddlers stop the mouthing by around age 2.  That's why there's usually a 3 and under choking warning on small toys---because by age 3, the mouthing is not as much of a problem.  Of course, Janey lives in a 3 and older world.  It would be literally impossible to keep every single small item out of her reach.  She couldn't go to school, the boys couldn't have things they need for school, heck, even clothes for an 8 year old have small parts.  Knock on wood, Janey haven't ever choked on anything, and she doesn't seem very inclined to swallow what goes in her mouth, except food.  She does like to chew on things like pieces of plastic or pieces of paper, when I'm not looking, but she's also good about taking out what is in her mouth as soon as I ask her.  Still, it's a big problem.  It's one of the reasons I always have to stay alert and keep an eye on her, just in case.  And although we've been very lucky so far, that is no guarantee that someday she might have a choking issue.

I looked for theories as to why kids with autism sometimes are mouthers.  One idea is that the mouth is hyposensitive---under sensitive, and they are seeking out sensation.  That makes a little sense.  Janey does like hot foods and spicy foods, and she will eat things with textures most kids avoid.  Another thought is it's just a very delayed developmental stage.  Janey is at a toddler stage in a lot of ways, so I guess that could be it.  I think it might have something to do with her teeth, too.  She's losing teeth here and there, and I know that can make your mouth feel odd---a little different every day---and she might be wanting to explore the new tooth arrangement often.  It also might just be a habit.

Usually, the mouthing is not actually eating non-food substances, not actually pica.  But occasionally Janey will try to eat paper.  I can relate to this a little.  As a girl, I was drawn to eating paper long enough that I can remember doing so.  Unlike Janey, I knew I wasn't supposed to, and hid doing it.  I can remember it being a texture thing---the paper just felt good to chew.  It's kind of cool in an odd way to be able to relate in that way to one of Janey's odd behaviors, even while I am telling her firmly to spit out that wad of paper.  I still am hugely drawn to chewing ice, even though I know it's awful for the teeth.  I know that, but still, I can't help wanting to crack that ice with my teeth.  I try to use that in dealing with Janey and mouthing.  I'm not going to try to get her to never put things in her mouth.  It's more I want her to have a lot of safe things around to put in her mouth.  I buy big bags of baby toys at the thrift store I go to, and wash them in hot water.  There's always a baby toy around, and when Janey starts mouthing inappropriate things, I try to hand her a baby toy to chew.  I resisted doing this until a year or so ago, hung up on the "age appropriate" bit, but now, I don't care.  I care about developmental appropriateness, if that's a thing!  Hopefully, someday, the mouthing will end.  For now, it's another challenge in making the world as Janey-safe as I can.

6 comments:

Sophie's Trains said...

Another "Janey is so much like Sophie" post :) have you seen the chewing necklaces Sophie wears? They are really good, she loves them. She has to have it on all the time. She also has a chew noodle. If she doesn't, she puts everything in her mouth or pull out her hair! That is the habit we want to break! Has Janey ever done that? My poor girl is almost bald on one side. She likes to mouth the hair too.
Anyway.. The necklaces are called kid companions chewelry. You should be able to google. They're marketed as "age-appropriate" solution.

Suzanne said...

It's amazing how much they are alike! The school has tried pretty much every mouthing jewelry there is out there, and Janey has conquered them all. At one point the OT ordered a very special non-chew-throughable one, and Janey bit it up in a day---they wrote to the company about that! Does Sophie ever bite through the chewelry? We haven't had any hair pulling out, though. Janey hates her hair touched---hates it being brushed or braided or anything, so that might keep her from pulling it, or putting it in her mouth. So maybe our daily fights over doing her hair serve a purpose!

Sabrina said...

Honestly I can relate to you with chewing ice; I used to do it as a kid and still occasionally do it now as an adult. I sometimes chew on pen caps, but not much. I guess as you said it's just the way something feels in one's mouth that makes it attractive, even moreso for Janey.

I'm not sure if Janey's into wearing plastic jewelry like other kids, or if that is something she doesn't like, but I found the website for Chewelry, which I'd heard about awhile ago - it's chewable jewelry, especially for kids with sensory issues. It might be helpful for Janey: http://www.nationalautismresources.com/chewelry.html

I wonder if these items might be helpful for Janey! I hope so. :)

mknecht24 said...

OT and Speech did a lot of work with Lindsey to desensitize her mouth. Although she was never one to chew up things, she did have a thing for licking objects or mouthing them. We use an electric toothbrush. This helped curtail the other behaviors. Just a thought for you both.

Sakurafleur said...

Same here - Olivia loves to chew on things sometimes. I do too. I had to chew pencil tops and I still do. We have a lot of the same sensory issues, but hers are more pronounced. The other day she was playing with sticky foam pieces and putting them on paper. After every time she took the backing paper off the sticker, she would put it on her top lip - just for the sensation. I could totally relate! However, with her, she did it until her top lip was sore. Poor girl - I didn't think about stopping her before it got to that point. She understands now that it gives her an 'owie' so she's not doing it.

I have a chew stick for her in her school bag for when she gets bitey and that seems to work - it really helps when she just needs to bite down on something and I like knowing it's safe for her to do. I also want to look into getting that chewelery.

Something I want to ask is how did Janey cope with losing teeth? I do wonder how on earth Olivia will cope with that.

Suzanne said...

Janey hasn't done badly so far with losing teeth, except for the fact she must have swallowed or lost a few of them---we'd just find them gone after they were loose for a long time. Strangely, she wouldn't play around much with the loose teeth, to the extent that her upper middle teeth were extremely loose for about 2 weeks, while the new teeth were coming in, and so the new teeth came in crooked, although they seem to be straightening out now. That's so funny with the sticker to the lips, because Janey would do that and I can picture doing it too! The whole mouthing area is one of the ones I can relate to most with Janey, and it's kind of cool to understand what she is craving. If I feel anything soft,too, I want to put it to my lips, like a kitten or soft yarn. The electric toothbrush is a great idea. I bet Janey would love that, as she loves even regular toothbrushes.