(This article has been updated 22 Sep, 2018)
Excessive chewing or fidgeting is sometimes an indication that your child with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) needs to MOVE! Moreover, some youngsters with ADHD will chew or bite on anything within their reach, because chewing IS movement. For hygiene, safety and even economical reasons, we are seeing that safer alternatives to commonly chewed items like pen tops, pencils, shirt sleeves and collars, cords, etc. should be provided to satisfy this overwhelming need to chew, bite or/and fidget.
How can you help a student with ADHD?
What are some challenges that come with chewing and ADHD? Besides being unsafe, when kids/teens gnaw on household, clothing or school items, these chewed-up, ruined things end up costing parents a lot of money. Then, there is the question of discomfort, damage to teeth and, if nail biting is involved, you have damaged, unsightly nails. Imagine coming home from school, chilled in the cold of winter from a chewed, soggy shirt. Not to mention the crushed pencils and eraser bits gracing the bottom of your school bag!
What about bullying? Parents will go to any lengths to make sure their child does not get teased or bullied. Added to the unfavorable attention a child with ADHD usually gets from teachers and peers, his habit of chewing or biting inappropriate non-edibles will bring him more attention. So indeed, how can a student with ADHD be helped?
What can you do for your ADHD child/teen?
Provide safe and discreet fidgets. Fidgets have particular properties that intrigue sensory systems. The premise is that children with special needs, with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
Tourette’s syndrome, autism (ASD), anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), reduce their excessive movements (fidgeting) and increase their focus through the handling of a fidget. Busy the hands to calm the mind.
Safety Concerns about fidgets.
Chews and fidgets come in many styles but keep in mind safety, many are put in the mouth! A cheap fidget toy may have the same toxins you are trying to avoid (nickel, BPA, lead, etc.), as we have been seeing in some “fidget spinner” lead levels.
“U.S. PIRG says its research of the popular toys found that two models of spinners sold at Target “contain as much as 300 times the federal legal limit for lead in children’s products.” But PIRG reports that Target refused to remove them from its shelves, and that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the distributor of the spinners, Bulls i Toy, say that the spinners are not meant for children.” (Time)
So do your research before buying fidgets. There are great review articles out there that can help. Look for ASTM safety standards and BPA Free information, ask questions.
Kids, Tweens, and Teens with ADHD Focus Better by Using Chewelry and/or Fidgets
When a student with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has to sit still for long periods of time his body is crying out to move. One of the strong, big muscles that would use this pent up energy is the jaw joint. Allow and encourage respectful chewing and biting on a discreet, age appropriate oral-motor tool like KidCompanions Chewelry. A unique feature of KidCompanions Chewelry is that it’s a BPA free, 2 material (2 textured) chew and can also can be used as hand fidgets. In fact, the heart shape was designed with a smooth “finger dip”, just like a worry stone. By busying the hands, the child with ADHD will be able to focus on the lesson being taught, the book being read, the lecture being heard.
Fidgeting is moving away from its old stigma and now it is considered an accepted coping mechanism to stay on task. Fidgeting facilitates focus for listening, talking and thinking. It is now accepted that excessive movement does NOT prevent learning but actually facilitates it. Studies show that adults who doodle during a phone conversation remember more details of the conversation than those who just listen!
If movements can help your child with ADHD sharpen memory, hone organizational skills and feel calm to interact favorably with his classmates, LET HIM or HER CHEW and FIDGET! Add it to the IEP or have it written down as an accommodation that your child needs to focus on his school work.
Having a discreet chewy or fidget, always accessible, enables this child to go about the day. A student with ADHD knows that when they needs to move to focus, it will be around his or her neck, in a belt hoop or attached to clothing. These children have enough worries in their lives that if a very simple tool, like Chewelry or other hand fidget, gives relief, it should be allowed in class.
Chewable necklaces, like KidCompanions Chewelry, should never be called a toy for those who really need the benefits of chewing. A toy would have to be put away when the bell signals classes are to begin. On the contrary, peers and teachers should respect the needs of this child to chew, bite or fidget and the Chewelry should be seen as natural to a class setting, just like pencils, crayons or eye glasses!
See Special Needs Book Review of an easy-to-use workbook written by Kerin Bellak-Adams entitled AD/HD Success! Solutions for Boosting Self-Esteem: The Diary Method for Ages 7-17.
My granddaughter, a fifteen year old sophomore, has a habit of tearing paper into very small pieces, rolling it up very tightly, and folding. There are constant comments from some of her teachers about this behavior, usually negative. My feeling is this is a compulsive disorder, doesn’t harm anybody, and they should make sure she is cleaning up any mess. I think that she is anxious and this is her way of dealing with it. She has been doing this since about 2 years old. She is partially deaf, learning disabled, very shy, psoriasis on her scalp and some on her body.
I have suggested that she be redirected when she starts tearing up paper. Am I right for telling them this?
Hello Rosalie, Please note that the suggestions we give on our blog do not come from medical experts but from parents and grandparents of children with special needs; therefore, to help your granddaughter it might be best to get advice from a specialist. I taught school for 30 years in an elememtary school and I do remember a child with Tourette syndrome who constantly needed to “fold paper and play with it between her fingers”. What you mention reminds me of this and it seems to be something that one with Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) would do. As it does not harm her or others it seems it should be allowed…a meeting with the teacher might help. Also your suggestion of redirecting her to another activity would also be helpful. Read another post we have about redirecting kids who “finger pick or skin pick”. Here is the link: Finger Picking or Skin Picking “Habits” That Are Difficult to Break by Bill Nason, MS, LLP http://kidcompanions.wpengine.com/finger-picking-or-skin-picking-habits-that-are-difficult-to-break-by-bill-nason-ms-llp/ Hope this is helpful, Lorna