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Is Your Child Orally Fixated?

Is Your Child Orally Fixated?

How to help your child overcome oral fixation

The first step is helping an orally-fixated child recognize his emotions, which you can do by simply standing in front of a mirror together and making faces while identifying the corresponding emotions. “It’s part of non-verbal skill building,” Dr. Fry says. “So when your child is anxious, she’ll be able to recognize the feeling and tell you. She’ll also learn that it’s okay to feel that way and that there are tools she can use to feel better.”

Some of those tools include relaxing through breathing exercises (as simple as five breaths in and five breaths out) or reciting a little poem or song (like a kid mantra, Dr. Fry says). There are also many multisensory products on the market to help orally fixated kids cope. “If a child is chewing as a means of self-soothing, I don’t what to take that away from them entirely,” says Klein. “I just want to find them a more socially appropriate way to self-regulate so they can focus their attention on what’s going on around them, instead of trying to meet their sensory need.”

For some kids, Klein recommends chewing gum for when they feel anxious, as well as crunchy snacks (pretzels, carrots, celery) and “chewlery,” fun, kid-friendly necklaces and bracelets designed for orally-fixated children.

Fortunately, by about age eight most orally-fixated kids wean themselves from their mouthing behaviour, says Dr. Fry. “In the meantime, it’s about giving them the skills and alternatives they need to deal with what’s motivating them to mouth.”