Know a child who puts everything in his mouth?
A baby learns about taste and texture by mouthing toys (besides for teething on them), chewing on them, feeling its texture, and even tasting them with his tongue.That isn’t limited to toys, my son used to lick the carpet when he was a baby. Gross, but he was exploring.
Children should be past this stage but when a child with sensory processing disorder needs oral input, it isn’t hard to miss. Some kids will taste or chew on inedible stuff, even dirt. My son liked to chew on almost every toy we own that would fit in his mouth. When I thought he had chewed enough, I requested that he wash it with soap, or if the toy wasn’t play-able anymore, toss it in the trash. I’ve caught him several times chewing on a bunch of tiny lego pieces (choking hazard!)
I mustn’t forget to mention the strings he chewed on, his sleeves (when he wore long ones, throughout the winter), and his bitten-down nails.
Children with sensory processing disorder who need extra oral input will shy away from many foods, may have trouble chewing chicken or tuna or even bread, or will judge a food by how it feels in his mouth. Taste and nutrition becomes irrelevant, all that matters is how the food looks and how it feels. A defensive palate working overtime.
When my son got a bit older (and I got smarter!) and he knew by himself when he needed that chewing sensation, I simply told him to go get a spoon from the kitchen to chew on, and we also kept chewing gum handy. I could have bought some sensory toys for him, made specifically for chewing on and for oral input, but at 7 years old, who wants to see a toy hanging out if his mouth? I wanted to grow him up.
Now, a few years later, his nails have grown back, he leaves his sleeves alone, and he can safely play with toys without sticking them in his mouth. It seems he’s grown out of this habit which I’ll admit drove me nuts.
A note about sensory chewing and biting: It may also be a result of proprioceptive dysfunction, meaning, the child is trying to get a sense of his different body parts, in this case: mouth, lips, tongue, teeth, gums, jaws.