Have you ever wondered why we chew and how to help?
If you’re a chewer or your child chews you might have wondered why? Perhaps you’ve tried to stop chewing, but it didn’t work? Did you know that chewing is a very common stim, and stimming is an essential part of self-regulation.
And that’s because chewing is related to our sensory processing system!
It’s quite common for autistic people and people with sensory difficulties to have problems with their sensory system. Which is all to do with our senses and how our brain responds to the messages they send us.
So let’s find out why we chew and how we can help.
We Have 5 Senses, Right?
Wrong! We are commonly taught that we have five senses:
Actually, we have 8!
The three less commonly know senses are:
Interoception is understanding what is going on inside of our bodies. It lets us know if we are hungry or thirsty or if we need to go to the toilet. People who struggle with interception may forget to eat or struggle with potty training.
Vestibular is our sense of balance and spatial awareness. The vestibular purpose is coordination movement and balance so if you struggle with vestibular, you may have problems riding a bike.
Proprioception is also known as our 6th sense and is our body awareness. Knowing which parts of our body do what and where our limbs are in space. The proprioceptive system forms sensory input that sends messages to the muscles and joints in our bodies. That is how we know where our limbs are in relation to objects and people. If you struggle with proprioception, you may struggle with things like catching a ball.
So why is this important to chewing?
If you’ve ever wondered why we chew and how to help read on.
When someone has difficulties with their proprioceptive system, it can cause problems with movement and levels of arousal. Some people struggle to process some or all of their senses. That’s because the signals go to the brain, but they get jumbled up before the brain forms the appropriate response. This can cause incorrect sensory signals to be sent to the muscles in your oral sensory system and can cause the need to bite or chew and that is why we chew.
This can also cause a Sensory overload.
Sensory overload is where one or more of the senses is experiences over stimulation to the environment and we can look like we are reacting inappropriately.
Sensory overload can cause stress, anxiety and fear and lots of other unwanted behaviours such as:
Lack of focus
Covering eyes and ears
Everyone will experience sensory overload differently and if you can catch it before you go too far, self-regulating and stimming can help.
Stimming is self-stimulatory behaviour which is repetitive movements, moving objects, sounds and words.
People stim in different ways, but some of the more common stims are:
Repeating words or phrases
Stimming is self-regulating and really important. It happens when we need to regulate the proprioceptive system. By regulating that system, it can help us to feel calm, safe and organised.
There is an excellent quote from The mighty.
“Stimming is like breathing just as natural just as important.”
Chewing is a common stim and addressing the need to chew is very important.
We can support the need to chew by trying some oral proprioceptive activities like:
Blowing through straws
Eating Crunchy foods like carrots
Sucking on boiled sweets
Bouncing on trampolines
Sucking yoghurts and milkshakes through a straw
Chewing is such a great way to calm and organise the sensory system.
The good thing about Chewigems is that they are portable, so you can pop them in your bag, around your neck and take them everywhere!
Chewing is a great way to calm the sensory system, self regulate and stim!
At Sensooli we have the full range of Chewigem Original products available plus we offer personal support. Whether you want to try one of our amazing chews or want some help and advice about chewing or the senses, you can always send us a message on Facebook or via email. We also have a fantastic group on Facebook called the Sensooli Sensory Support Group, where you can get involved in the chat to help others or ask for help and advice yourself. It is an excellent place for your senses!
We really hope this helped you to understand why we chew and how we can help.
And also join our sensory support group on Facebook here