The word “oral” refers to the mouth and gustatory system, including taste. Oral sensory seekers are those who seek oral stimulation in order to feel focused and on task. Children with and without sensory processing disorders practice oral stimulation. This is when a child may chew on the end of their pencil or pen, their hair, cheeks, jewelry, or clothing. This type of chewing is often beneficial for focus in school when a child is doing directed tasks, such as taking a test. It can also be an indicator that a child is being under-stimulated by a task. It’s important to know what to look for to distinguish healthy chewing and disruptive chewing.
Healthy Oral Stimulation
Oral stimulation is good for children who use the stimulation to focus in school. However, sometimes chewing can be distracting to other children. The first step to addressing the needs of oral sensory seekers is to take them aside in private and ask if they know that they are chewing. It’s important not to address the behavior in front of others, as it could potentially embarrass the child in question. Many children don’t even realize that they are engaging in a distracting behavior. If the oral sensory seekers are chewing for stimulation, you can then proceed to find alternative ways to provide heavy chewing work that provides proprioceptive input. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Chewing gum during reading or quiet times.
- Providing crunchy snacks like carrot sticks and pretzels.
- Have the class take a break to play a blowing game where each child blows up a balloon or blows through a straw.
- Provide fidgets, such as Chewigems, that are appropriate to chew on during class.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center is a top therapy center serving families of children and adolescents with disabilities. Our team consists of the leading experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavior sciences. We offer intensive, hands-on therapy for children and adolescents as well as resources for families. We are real therapists helping real families with real issues. If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, take a moment to fill out our quick questionnaire. If you’d like to schedule an appointment, call 202-561-1110 (Washington, D.C. office) or 301-577-4333 (Lanham office) or contact us via our website. Want to keep up with our latest news and blog posts? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.