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Chewing On Clothes And ADHD: Why Do Some Kids Chew On Clothes?

Chewing On Clothes And ADHD: Why Do Some Kids Chew On Clothes?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is ‘a behavioural disorder that includes symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness’ (NHS). ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that typically presents itself in early childhood, but can sometimes be left undiagnosed because, in some cases, it can be difficult to distinguish between ADHD and ‘typical’ childhood behaviour. 

Signs of ADHD may include disruptive behaviour, fidgeting, emotional turmoil, difficulties focussing and finishing tasks, forgetfulness, trouble getting organised and making mistakes.  You should consult your GP or child’s paediatrician for advice if you suspect that your child has ADHD and they have a few symptoms which are present in all situations.

Chewing Clothes Disorder in Children

Children with ADHD often have what is referred to as oral fixation. The easiest way to explain this, is a compulsion with stimulating the mouth. Oral fixation is another method of ‘stimming’ and is often presented by children chewing on objects, such as clothing. 

What Causes a Child to Chew on Clothes?

Common reasons that children with ADHD chew on their clothes are:

  • It can be calming for them and reduce anxiety and stress.
  • It can help them to focus and pay attention.
  • It is a form of sensory stimulation.
  • They have PICA (an eating disorder whereby a person eats non-food items).
  • They have a dental problem – if your child is unable to communicate with you it is worthwhile ruling this out with their dentist.
  • They are stimulating their jaw muscles (particularly true of children who have a soft food diet).

Although chewing on clothes is often harmless, it can be dangerous if your child’s clothing has buttons or zips that could come off and be swallowed so you should always be mindful of this. Wet clothing can also cause your child’s skin to be sore underneath. Of course, chewing clothes can also be a pain for parents because it can ruin items, causing them to have holes in or be misshapen. 

Oral Fixation Alternatives

It is quite possible that your child’s desire to chew their clothing will never subside. However, there are oral fixation alternatives that you can put in place to try and reduce the amount of chewing on clothing and also help meet the sensory needs of your child.

Chewelry and Oral Motor Grabbers

Chewelry and oral motor grabbers provide great sensory feedback for children with ADHD who like to chew. These products come in lots of different designs and can be bright, colourful and playful or really quite discreet. They can be a great aid in preventing children from chewing on their clothing. 

Bandana Bibs to Help with Child Chewing on Clothes

Some children prefer to chew on fabric and will not chew on objects like chewelry. Bandana bibs can meet this need and prevent chewing clothing. SpecialKids Company provides a range of bandana bibs on our website.

bandanna bibs

Adaptive Clothing 

For children who like to chew their sleeves, adaptive clothing might be beneficial. For example, short sleeved bodysuits can, in some instances, remove the option to chew.

kaycey special kids popper vests

Deep Pressure Therapy to Help with Sensory Sensitivity 

Providing deep pressure therapy, using touch or weight, can help a child who has sensory sensitivity and is chewing their clothes. It can help to alleviate anxiety and stress and research has shown that it can provide a calming effect on the body and mind.

Other methods could include brushing the inside of your child’s cheek using an electric toothbrush or letting them bounce on a trampoline with appropriate safety measures in place.

High Sensory Foods

High sensory foods, for example, foods that are high in crunch and chewiness, such as carrots, or thick liquids, such as a milkshake through a straw, can help oral fixation.

Alternative Oral Activities

It is worthwhile considering oral alternative activities that might interest your child. For example, blowing bubbles, singing and reading stories are fantastic oral activities, which could distract from chewing.

We hope that these suggestions help. What methods have been helpful for you?

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Kimberly - December 20, 2021

I have an issue that I do find addressed here so I would like to ask a new topic question, please. My nephews and niece lost there mother several weeks ago, unexpectedly. They are 5 (twins) and 6 years old. since this happened and they returned to school, one of the 5 year olds and the 6 year old have been ruining their clothes at school, either by cutting holes with scissors or poking multiple holes with pencils! Several of the items were first wear and some were not exactly cheap ,which is very disheartening. Worst of all, of course, is the wonder about what is going on in their little heads to cause them to do this! We assume it is “acting out” brought on by the trauma of their mother’s death. We cannot figure out how to help them regain control and stop doing this .Have you heard of such behavior before and any suggestions on handling it. We will be grateful for any help! Thank you,in advance!

bas - December 20, 2021

hi i have adhd and i want to know how to get stuff

Joyce White - December 28, 2021

We need help with our grandson he is 12 yrs old and he has ADHD and he has been chewing for a very long time and have taken him to the doctor and she said that he will be alright. Well our grandson has chewed up so many Shirts, every week we go thought about four Shirts. Some time in school he chews his pencils. Please help us help him. Thanks

Ann Ayres - December 28, 2021

Hello, I came to your site for my grandson who has brain damage, he’s six and a half now, but dribbles when he uses his chewy and also gets food on his clothes when eating, so I was looking for a bigger bib as the ones he has are really for smaller children. That’s when i noticed your information on children chewing their clothes, which my eldest grandson does. He has gone through a lot since he was two, as his younger brother developed a brain injury through meningo encaphelitis, so the attention has been very much on his disabled brother. Thanks. Annie

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