When my son was in elementary school, he started having a problem chewing little pieces of paper. I am honestly not sure if it was because of his tactile defensiveness or if it was from his ADHD, but it was constant and becoming a problem.
He would chew little pieces of paper and then put them on the floor. Then get a new one and do the same thing. By the time school was over for the day, he had tiny pieces of paper all over the floor underneath his desk.
The first grade that I remember his habit being a problem was in the second grade. His second-grade teacher is the one who brought this habit to my attention. We tried different things that school year to help him stop doing it. Here’s what we tried to stop our son’s chewing habit.
His teacher allowed him to chew gum in class, but that didn’t work because he would spit the gum out and not in the garbage can. We also tried sending him to school with Tic Tacs that he could suck on. This didn’t work because he would eat them and didn’t suck on them.
Since neither worked and his teacher didn’t want him chewing on paper, he started chewing on pencils. Once again, at the end of the day, he would have little pieces of wood pencils on the floor underneath his desk.
By the end of second grade, we could not solve the problem, and when he got to third grade, it was still a problem.
His third-grade teacher did not like him chewing on paper. This is the year that we were introduced to sensory chewing necklaces. These can be found easily on Amazon.com using a search term like, Sensory Chew Necklaces.
A sensory chewing necklace has a round rubber medallion that they wear, and when they get the urge to chew, they can chew on the medallion.
Our son tried this for a week, but then he got embarrassed and stopped wearing it to school. I’m guessing the kids said something to him. You can buy sensory chewing necklaces with a block that looks like a Lego. I thought that would be perfect because he loves Legos, but he was still embarrassed to wear it.
When that didn’t work, we discovered chewable pencil toppers. We found a pencil topper that looked like a Lego. That worked pretty well for him for quite some time. Until he either lost them or they got stolen from him.
Starting in fourth grade, his teachers didn’t care. They said it isn’t a big deal if the vacuum can pick up the little pieces of paper.
He did get made fun of when he was in fifth grade, and that is when he started to hide it a little bit more. He still was chewing paper, but rather than dropping them on the floor, he would put them into his pockets. Lucky me, when I did his laundry, I would find all of these little tiny, tiny wads of paper in his pockets.
Now that he is sixteen, he still chews on things, but not like he used to. We have accepted that he likes to chew on different things, and we wouldn’t change him for anything.
Hopefully, this helps anyone with a child who likes to chew on things. Even though the sensory chew toys didn’t work for us, it is very possible they could work for you. There are so many more options out there for sensory than there used to be. It takes patience with some trial and error to find the right strategy for your child!!