Autism and Oral Fixations

Welcome to The Cherry On Top.

We're back with another Monday edition focusing on Autism and sharing ways to help with different aspects across the spectrum.

Today, we are going to touch on Pica and oral sensory of excessive chewing with the goal of learning to identify when oral fixation is a problem and present some solutions.  We will look into both oral defensiveness and hyposensitivity.  Now, I've read quite a bit and I want to combine my findings with our own experience of these to form a sound, well rounded, in a nutshell piece.  Hehehe...


Let's take a quick look at what Pica is.  Next week, we'll dive further in to this because it's a pretty scary disorder and you should really know your stuff to combat it.

Pica is a developmental disability where inedible things are eaten or chewed on, to put it as simple as possible. Our youngest has this and in the beginning it was a nightmare.  He would be caught chewing on sand, rocks, rusty metal, squishy plastic stuff, just about anything, really.  He often choked and even ruined his teeth from constantly chewing on rocks and sand.  You must be vigilant if pica is present, but we'll get into more detail next week.


Let's look at the difference between oral defensiveness and oral hyposensitivity.

I find list form to be the easiest most comprehensive and quickest way to get information.  Here are some symptoms of Oral defensiveness:

*  particular about food, the texture, flavour and temperature
*  sensitive or objecting anything to do with oral hygiene
*  gags easily on food due to texture or flavour
*  frequently chokes





Some symptoms to oral hyposensitivity are:

*  Pica
*  enjoys exceptionally flavourful food
*  chews extensively on non food items including hair and nails
*  enjoys oral hygiene
*  continues to drool after teething


Jeffrey deals with just about all of these symptoms and as you can see has taken up with his blanket for pacification.  Ironically, he never wanted to use a pacifier as a baby.  I'm not sure if it is because he enjoyed breast feeding or not, but it is something I consider. 

READ THIS!!!
Another huge problem with these kinds of disorders (if they are even considered a disorder) is diet.  It is crucial that you do not allow your child to eat only junk.  You must continually place various healthy foods in all different forms and present them in different ways.  We've found just setting a huge array of goodies on the coffee table with the TV on, to be the most efficient and effective way to get both of our picky, sensory disordered kids to not only eat, but try new and different foods. It's even better when you leave the area and ignore them.

I would also recommend, through our own strenuous research, to never pressure or shout in an eating situation when meal time is a struggle.  It'll only get worse.  Be creative!  Allowing them to use their fingers is also a huge help.

JJ has this blanket since the Autistic symptoms started appearing, which was around 1 1/2 to 2 years old.  It has helped incredibly with Pica, jitters, focus, and anxiety.  His blanket brings him so much joy and comfort.  I don't care that he's 9 years old and carries it with him everywhere.  I can't even begin to imagine how much more difficult his life would be without it.

We often sneak the blanket away and put it on his bed or back in his drawer as a way to kind of ween him off or at least back a bit.  However, there are times when he really needs it.  We never ever make the blanket an issue.  It is one of the most important things to him and really, what work is it for us?

He's not aloud to take it to school unless he's having a terrible morning and asks.

I've recently started looking in to chewable jewellery for both of our kids and here is why:

*  oral issues are addressed
*  tactile issues are also addressed
*  helps relieve anxiety
*  helps with fidgeting
*  great for long car rides
*  super for homework and classwork
*  promotes an easier transition
*  helps regain balance

Here are a couple of examples of chewable jewellery.

I'm definitely going buy these gems!  I found them at the Therapy Shop.  Click on the image to get them.  My oldest obliterates his pens and pens.  This might really help with that.

 therapy shop

Here's another example in a necklace and pendant form.  Of course, use caution if your child is a harsh biter.  It is not candy.  It is silicone.  For more details click on the image.

 Chewigem

It's certainly fine to address obsessive oral behaviour.  As in most of our Autism entries, we advice doing so with tact, respect and as calmly as possible. Diverting and distraction may take a lot of work, but they are really helpful ways to stop or lessen, oral fixations as well. Be sure to speak with caregivers and teachers about oral issues especially, Pica.

Here are a couple of links if you want to look further into this.

http://www.autism-help.org/comorbid-sensory-integration-dysfunction.htm
https://dreugeniasteingold.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/is-your-child-hyposensitive/
http://www.theautismlife.com/the.senses.connected/the.seven.senses

I'll be honest when I say that I can't find a lot of good sites out there.  If you have, by all means, share the link in the comments. It's part of why I'm doing these entries.  Taking bits of information from a variety of places and putting them as comprehensively as possible in one spot.

Thanks so much for checking out The Cherry.  We'll see you next week when we go further into Pica and then the week after, we'll look into other tools that will help in the classroom.

The best of luck!