Why do we chew ? is a constant question we get asked. Maybe you a chewer or maybe you have a child that chews? You probably like most wonder why? Perhaps you’ve tried to stop chewing, but it didn’t work? That’s because chewing is a very common stim, and stimming is an essential part of self-regulation.
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. It’s all to do with our senses and how our brain responds to the messages they send us.
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:
This is understanding what is going on inside of our bodies. Interoception lets us know if we are hungry or thirsty or if we need to go to the toilet. People who are struggling 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. If you struggle with vestibular, you may have problems riding a bike.
That’s 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 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.
It can also cause a Sensory overload.
Sensory overload is where one or more of the senses is experiences over stimulation to the environment.
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.
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 are really important. It happens when we need to regulate the proprioceptive system. By regulating the 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, so 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. 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!
Chewigem offers a wide range of products and 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 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!