Autism Chew Toys

Autism Chew Toys

Children who have a sensory processing disorder often seek oral stimulation. This can also be a symptom of autism and ADHD.

Unfortunately, this behavior can cause children with autism and other sensory disorders to put unsafe or unsanitary items in their mouths. That is why many parents and teachers offer alternatives, such as sugar-free gum or a sensory chew toy.

If your child often chews on their clothes or other miscellaneous items, this guide covers why chew toys are beneficial, as well as how to select the best toys for your child.

Autism Chew Toys for Sensory Issues

There are several reasons your child may chew on their clothing or other everyday objects.

One of the most common reasons is to help reduce feelings of anxiety. Chewing can be calming for children with autism — especially when they are overstimulated. Research shows that as many as 40% of children with autism also have an anxiety disorder.

Related: Autism and Anxiety

Do you find your child chews on their shirt or other non-food objects when they are stressed? 

For example, when it is time for your child to go to school or start their homework? When he/she starts to chew, do they appear to be upset? These are the types of things you’ll want to stay mindful of when seeking professional assistance. The more insight you can share with your child’s therapist, the better.

Another common reason children with autism chew is because of sensory stimulation. 

Some signs that your children may be a sensory seeker include:

  • Seeking visual stimulation. Examples include becoming overly excited to watch a spinning fan or the desire to look at bright lights.
  • Struggling to stay still and keep their hands to themselves.
  • Enjoying potent smells.

For many children with autism, chewing is a calming repetitive behavior, which can lead to pica. This is the habit of swallowing non-food items, such as paper or dirt. This requires immediate intervention.

In select cases, children chew or swallow items to seek attention. For example, your child may want to spend time with you but struggles to express that need. Instead, they may swallow objects to get your attention. As reported by Autism Speaks, one teenager with autism would swallow batteries. He said he did so to avoid school so that he could spend time in the hospital with his parents instead.

What Are Sensory Chewies?

  • Sensory chew toys are hand-held objects that are made with safe materials, such as non-toxic silicone or fabric. Providing sensory stimulation for children with autism, they came in a wide range of textures. Some are smooth while others have ridges and raised patterns.
  • There are many options on the market, all of which are easy to clean. Depending on your child’s preferences, they may love one toy but avoid another. For example, your child may love chewing on a harder purple toy while avoiding a softer yellow toy. It’s important to work with your child to find them a sensory chew toy that helps them remain calm.
  • The key is to identify your child’s needs to find the best toy for them. For example, if your child often chews on pencils, there are plenty of safe pencil toppers on the market. Throughout this process, you can then determine why your child is chewing. That way, you can introduce other potential interventions, such as increased movement.

Choosing Sensory Chew Toys for Children with Autism

With so many sensory toys available, choosing the right one can be daunting.

Before you purchase a new sensory chew toy, ask yourself:

  • Where and how does my child chew? Does your child often chew at the back of their mouth? Do they suck on items? Knowing where in your child’s mouth they chew, can help you choose the best option for them. Also, focus on how hard they chew. If they bite down hard, you’ll want a tougher chew toy. In contrast, those who suck may appreciate a softer toy.
  • What textures/shapes do they prefer? Does your child mostly chew on clothing or do they chew on a favorite toy? Consider the material and texture of their go-to chew item.

It’s also important to consider where your child falls on the spectrum. If your child is more socially aware and is in a class with neurotypical students, you may want to consider a chew toy that does not draw a lot of attention. 

Some children may not care what their peers think, whereas others will be more conscious of their classmates. 

The key is working with your child one-on-one to figure out the best option for them.

Tips for Choosing and Maintaining Sensory Toys

  • For the most part, avoid cheap alternatives. These products are often made with single-use plastics that contain BPA. This is an industrial chemical that has potential endocrine-disrupting properties. This means BPA may mimic or interfere with your child’s hormones. Always opt for sensory chew toys that are specifically designed for children.
  • Adhere to a cleaning schedule, following the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  • If your child chews at the back of their mouth, a longer toy that is P, I, or X shaped may be ideal. In comparison, those who suck at the front may prefer a rounded, softer chew.
  • For children who prefer less obvious sensory toys, “chewelry” or pencil toppers are both great.

Recommended reading: Can Sensory Technology Help Autism?

Best Sensory Chew Toys

The following list provides an overview of some of the best chew toys on the market. Please note that what works well for one child will not be the best for another. It’s important to focus on your child’s unique behaviors and needs when selecting the “best” option for them.

Chewelry for Autism

There are plenty of stylish and discreet jewelry options for both children and adults who need to chew. These items are made with medical-grade material and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, toughnesses, and thicknesses, ensuring an ideal piece for your child.

Here are some options for the best sensory chew toys:

  • Ark Therapeutic Products makes a wide selection of necklaces and bracelets, designing options for every sensory preference. Designs include everything from dinosaurs to flowers, pizza slices to basketballs. They also make pencil topper chews (discussed in greater detail below).
  • National Autism Resources offers a range of chewable jewelry pieces, including chew drop pendants and chew twist necklaces. Options are available for aggressive chewers.

Munchables is a Canadian company, recommended by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. As they say, “Change ‘don’t eat that’ to ‘chew on this’ with Munchables.” They offer an impressive selection of quality-made “chewelry” pieces, as well as zipper pulls.

Pencil Toppers and Chewy Tubes

Both chewy tubes and pencil toppers are an excellent choice for children and teens. These chew toys are often highly resilient, offering children with autism valuable sensory input.

Here are some options:

  • Autism-Products.com supplies “pieces to solve the puzzle,” including various chewy tubes and sets of pencil toppers. Although pencil toppers come in many styles and colors, you can select clear for a more discrete choice.
  • Fun and Function offers sensory solutions for an inclusive world. Their products are made for children with ADHD, autism, and other special needs. Choose from a wide selection of chew toys, including pencil toppers shaped like chess pieces and colorful chewy tubes.

Chew toys come in all shapes, sizes, and designs. Whether your child loves clouds or animals, you can find the perfect chew toy for your child’s interests and needs.

Pingree Center Is Here for You

The Pingree Autism Center of Learning is a specialty service that provides better care and better outcomes! Offering comprehensive treatment, education, and related services to children with autism, our goal is to help change lives. 

Although we are located in Utah and are proud to serve our local community, our doors are open to children and their families nationwide.

Want to learn more? Contact us today!