Sunday, January 8, 2012

Oral Stimming and the Motorized Toothbrush

Don't mind the crumbs.

I have essentially given up.  I know it is bad to say and perhaps I look like a horrible parent, but I have.  I know that my daughter has oral sensory cravings.  I know it.  Goodness, even strangers know it.  She almost always has something in her mouth and now she is gagging herself.  On purpose.  She sticks her fingers way back in there.  Gag. Gag. Gag. Strangers ask "is she teething?" and I lie and say "yes, those 2 year molars are pesky little things" because that is the acceptable thing to say and well, the easy answer.  The shocking fact is, Bear has all her baby teeth already.  So no, she isn't teething.  She is oral stimming.

Replacing the object Ellie is chewing on with the appropriate chew/straw/chewlery is:

a. annoying
b. tedious
c. unrealistic
d. all of the above

The person with the correct answer gets a hardy congratulations and a cyber high-five!

What are you talking about?  I don't have an oral sensory fixation.  Nope, nope, I don't have anything in my mouth.

We have gone through 5 chewelry tubes/necklaces.  They work temporarily and then Ellie throws them.  Somewhere.  Typically in the mall and I cannot find them despite retracing my steps.  We have gone through an entire bag of straws.  They sometimes work and sometimes they are also thrown.  Okay, almost always thrown.  I have stopped carrying them around the house.  No longer are my pockets filled with brightly colored straws.  They [the straws] were ending up everywhere.  Behind the couches, up against the baseboards, in my cats' mouths.  They are not safe for the kitties to munch on so I stopped using them.  Frankly, it just became impossible for me to keep up with Ellie's mouthing--the immediately cramming a straw into Ellie's mouth as she mouths an object.  I cannot do it.  I cannot do this back and forth, straw-object-exchange 100% of the time.  Also, perhaps the real truth is I DO NOT CARE anymore.

Gasp.  Shock. Mouths hanging open.  I have said it before and I will say it again, Ellie is a mouther. All I am really doing with the chewelry and the straws are giving her a SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE objects to mouth.  Mouthing on the blocks/stacking rings/legos is inappropriate, but a straw is not?  Or the rubber "chewelry"?

Mmmm. Crunchy crackers.

We still provide Ellie Bear with high sensory input foods at each meal--crunchy crackers, sour fruit twists, the occasional lemon slice.  Do they help?  I think so because while she mouths each and every toy, she is now able to play and focus on the task at hand.  If there is something that I really do not want in her mouth such as rocks or finger paints, I just calmly say "no mouth".  Surprisingly, that typically works.  If not, rather than yanking the object out of her mouth (this gives her the sensory input she so desperately craves), I push into her mouth.  This usually causes her to release the object.  Is it horrible, that I no longer care?  Is it horrible that I have given up?

Next on my list of things to try is a motorized toothbrush.  We already use one for brushing her teeth, but our ECI therapist recommended taking one with us to use before therapies. The thought is that the vibrating toothbrush will satisfy her oral cravings long enough to get her through speech, OT, and ABA therapy.  Eh, it is worth a shot and it seems a whole lot easier than chasing Bear around the house with a straw or chewelry!

You mean use the toothbrush like this?

Oh, I see!  I do it myself!

So maybe I haven't complete given up. . . after all, I did buy the toothbrush.

I would love to hear your suggestions and what works with your kids!



  1. Meh. You have to pick your battles. My daughter grinds her teeth - loudly. She'll chew on straws when attached to a milk filled cup but otherwise has no interest in chews/plastic/blankies, or anything but grinding her baby teeth down to nubs. I'm hoping she grows out of it by the time her perm teeth arrive.

  2. Oh how you are speaking my language right now! Although we do not have chewing behaviours, essentially ANY toy becomes a personal tongue massager for Aziza. She also bangs herself in her mouth for the input. And I KNOW the answer to your multiple choice questions is .. ALL OF THE ABOVE!!! Sigh ... at least take comfort in knowing that you are NOT alone :)

  3. To me, it sounds like you have given caring what people think. Good for you. It sounds like you are trying to find what works for Ellie. I don't think success is getting her to do what the world sees as socially acceptable, but helping her reach her best and be able to reach her full potential.

  4. How old is Ellie? I know that you mentioned how you sometimes "lie" about the two year molars, but V is 22 mo's and already has hers. So I was just curious. Does Ellie like having her teeth brushed-- since she likes all of the stimulation? V does not like her teeth brushed but likes to still put things into her mouth so I dont think that she is doing it for stimulation more so as a younger habit that she may need to out grow. Is there something wrong with what Ellie is doing, other than the occasional putting things into her mouth that she shouldn't or is there a reason for it? Im not trying to be nosy, im just curious. And while my short questions may seem judgmental, I promise I am not being like that.I agree that you shouldn't care what others think and I say Ellie, chew on! :) Oh, and I choose 'All of the above' do I get cyber high fives?

  5. I forgot, in my above mumbling, to say that I love these pictures of Ellie. I think that she looks absolutely beautiful and has the most amazing eyes!

  6. We have mouther here as well, and we are now trying chewelry, we'll see how that goes! Anyway, I noticed recently that when Emily took an accidental sip of sprite soda she was very taken aback by what she felt and it gave her a huge sensory lift. So, we are going to try giving her flavored seltzer water to see if that also gives her some of the sensory input she is craving, although you may have already tried this one!

  7. This hits close for us here! Sophia is a teeth grinder (during waking hours). On your suggestions (thank you!), as well talking with some of our therapists, we have been trying several things. The vibrating teether (strawberry) has sometimes helped, and we also give her the Yellow T shaped chewy, but she needs to get it all the way in the back since it is her molars that she grinds. The dentist has said her teeth don't show any wear/breakage right now (34 months old) which I was happy to hear. I find myself often saying, "whatever, I am tired of shoving something in her mouth" but other times, I just need to not hear it! Sophia also likes to mouth cloth things, so sometimes I just let her have a washcloth to walk around with or put a mitten on her hand that she can suck on ... its better than her taking off her sock and sucking on that is what I figure (and yes, she has done that). I figure this is just one little thing in the big picture of all that we (and our children) have ahead of us.

  8. I've always thought that one reason why dealing with babyhood/toddlerhood for child #3 was easier is that I'd already given up on so much. After the first 2 kiddos, I had already learned what battles I'm willing to pick and readily let go of the rest. So, I applaud your decision.

  9. I've "given up" several times over the years with my kids. Yes, it's easy to incorporate therapy into your daily routine, but sometimes you just want to enjoy your child and let her be who she is. You'll take a break and then she'll have a breakthrough and suddenly you'll care all over again. It's the cycle of the SN parent.

  10. Hello Ellie Bellie Bear! She's such a sweet little girl! You are such a good parent… finding ways on how she can beat her habit. I know you'll be patient and continue searching until you find the perfect solution.

    Vernell Leider


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