What causes an autistic child to chew clothes?
If you have an autistic child who chews their clothes, this blog is especially for you. In it, we plan to explain autism and chewing causes and ways at preventing your child from chewing their clothing.
Why does my child chew on clothes?
So, what causes an autistic child to chew their clothes? There may be several reasons for this, come of the reasons include:
Lots of autistic children are sensory seekers and chewing clothes can be a sensory-seeking habit. It’s common to see children with autism with wet tops or sleeves because they have chewed them. Chewing can be a self-stimulatory behaviour known as ‘stimming’.
Some children chew their clothes when they are feeling anxious. Doing so helps them feel comforted and calms them down if they are worried or overstimulated.
We completely empathise that your child chewing their clothes can be a little frustrating in terms of making them soggy and providing you with extra washing. However, it is important to remember that clothes chewing is not a particularly dangerous habit nor is it something to worry about. Whilst it’s not necessary to stop your child from chewing their clothes if you want to try to encourage them not to, here are some ideas that you could try.
Replacement behaviours to implement for chewing on clothes
Chewelry is something that you might not have heard of but is for sure something that you should consider if your child is a chewer. There are lots of places online that sell it and it ranges from bracelets to necklaces. We would recommend looking at Chewigem’s range. The products are soft and safe to chew and are usually brightly coloured with different textures. Chewelry is a great way to provide safe oral sensory input and can prevent some children from chewing their clothes.
Specialist bodysuits and other autism-friendly clothing can be great at preventing chewing clothes.
Short-sleeved discreet body suits can limit the access a child has to put the clothing in their mouths. You may also find that by having tag-free, short-sleeved garments, you can prevent access to the bottom of the shirts and remove the option to chew.
Sometimes, dribble bibs work well at preventing your child from chewing the top of their t-shirt. Instead, they chew the bib, but you can replace this regularly when it gets soggy or dirty.
When tied in with other behaviour-changing activities, you can limit and influence what your child uses to stim; allowing them to do so in a safe way, working towards helping them stop completely in their own time.
Finally, try oral activities that might distract your child when they start to chew their clothes. You could sing a song, read a book together, blow bubbles or pull funny faces! You can do many things – can you think of any?