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Do you ever feel like you’re constantly taking two steps forward and one step back when it comes to your children? If you have a special needs child, I know that’s precisely how you’re feeling. And, even if you don’t, I know just how real the struggle of parenting in general is because I’ve got three little girls who remind me daily! It honestly feels like an uphill battle under water some days, doesn’t it? I know that’s precisely how I felt at times, especially when it came to our son Tristan and his sensory sensitivities. I helped him deal with these using a DIY chew necklace for autism.
Our Struggles With Sensory Issues and Oral Fixation
Many years ago, I was experiencing a rather difficult pregnancy with Keira—my eldest daughter. Not only was it a physically demanding experience, but I felt extremely drained both mentally and emotionally. You could say that I developed my own sensory sensitivities during that time as well. Where I was normally a very patient mother who responded with firm calmness whenever Tristan experienced issues with stimuli and behavior, I suddenly became a very reactive parent instead. I would immediately feel remorse for not handling situations with finesse, but my disappointment in myself only compounded the issue.
Here was Tristan, struggling inside his own body and mind every single day and now he was straining even harder with a new baby sister and the holidays upon us. Babies and holidays mean our house is overflowing with guests and utter “‘Tis the Season” chaos. It was all so overwhelming for the two of us. I managed to pull myself together—enough to give others the impression that all was well, but my heart was aching for my son, despite my dwindling patience with him.
Because of the new people visiting our house on account of the baby zeal and holiday cheer, Tristan’s therapy schedule was disrupted and he was completely thrown off track. My son relies heavily on a familiar routine. Without one, he can very quickly regress. Sometimes, his regression is subtle and builds slowly, other times it’s too loud and clear to ignore. This time around, what was once an occasional problem, became a full-blown habit. I noticed that Tristan began seeking oral sensory to help calm himself. It wasn’t the first time he chewed his nails, but recent circumstances had definitely pushed him to make it a very noticeable habit. The sensory regression didn’t end with nail-biting—he was now mouthing every object he came in contact with. I knew that if I didn’t stabilize the situation—and soon—he could possibly regress in other areas, too.
The problem was that the quicker “solutions,” simply weren’t the solution. Time outs were useless. Deterring the activity by removing his hands or other objects from his mouth only stressed him out further. Even the opportunity to earn stickers or other rewards, like bubbles, was no help at all. That’s when I decided that his need shouldn’t be overlooked. It was obvious that his stress called for a sensory technique of some kind and I did not want to deprive him. I wondered if it were possible to not only control the issue, but also confine it. Thankfully, it was possible.
DIY Sensory Chew Necklace for Autism
I discussed this mouthing issue with Tristan’s occupational therapist and she suggested I get him some food-grade clear plastic tubing from Amazon or a building supply store, and make necklaces for him to chew on. This was a relief to me because most commercial sensory necklaces are incredibly overrated and overpriced (in terms of material costs). All I had to be careful with was ensuring that the tubing was food grade, which would keep Tristan safe from particle leaching.
We didn’t waste any time with the therapist’s suggestion. The very next day, my husband came home with several feet of clear plastic tubing. Tristan didn’t even give us time to cut into smaller pieces and fashion it for his use! He took right to it! In fact, within just a couple of days, my son stopped chewing and mouthing everything under the sun in our home! We were so thankful.
The nail-biting still happened from time to time, but it subsided quite markedly with the introduction of the tubing. If I saw Tristan chewing on a toy or his hands, I simply had to remind him of his chewable necklace and he would quickly switch course. I was very careful with how I styled his and it was not a threat to breathing, so he was able to sleep with his tubing, too, which really gave us all relief at bedtime. To us, this was a game changer. To Tristan, it was like a special, comforting toy that gave him an immediate outlet for how he was feeling. He wore and played with it every day. Surprisingly, that simple tubing was a massive improvement in our lives, which is why I am sharing this with you!
Why You Should Make Your Own Chew Necklace for Autism
Now, I know the commercial options are cute—they really are—but they can be lost or damaged and then you’ll have to just buy more, which can be rather costly. Another problem is that not all places have a store that caters to sensory needs, which means you’ll have to order online in most cases. Can you imagine how stressful that wait will be for your son or daughter? That’s precisely why I chose to stick with this inexpensive chewable tubing option. Not only is it economical, but it’s also safe and easy to style for any child’s preference. Plus, it’s soft and won’t irritate your child’s mouth. And, if you were wondering, cleaning it is not as problematic as you might have imagined. Simply run it through the dishwasher or dunk it in boiling water.
I can’t tell you enough how much this easy DIY Sensory Chew Necklace for Autism tremendously helped my son’s sensory mouthing issues. I want you to have the same relief and success that I’ve had.
Try it out for yourself! If you have questions, suggestions, or would like to share your own sensory story, please comment below. I would love to read about the solutions you’ve come up with for your child’s chewing sensory issues.