QUESTION: Chewing on Velcro?

QUESTION:

I just took an EI child age 2–5 years. Mom indicates that the child is “obsessed” with chewing Velcro items. Pillows and shoes, especially the Velcro on shoes. So that she wouldn’t chew on the Velcro on the shoes, the parents have purchased and given her the little Velcro dots that are sold at craft stores. That didn’t work. So, they got the industrial Velcro, she used it a couple of times but then rejected it. She likes the Velcro on the shoes. In addition to that, during meal times when given meats, the child chews little pieces and then spits it out. She has some moderate articulation problems. She is very friendly and socially appropriate. No other signs that would make me suspect ASD. Do you have any suggestions?

GWEN’S ANSWER:

About the shoe Velcro. . . . hmmm. Because you are not seeing any other big issues, I am inclined to consider this a preference more than anything else. Because she has articulation issues and difficulty with meat, I suspect she has low oral muscle tone. Chewing the Velcro might be a way for her to recruit tone. She might prefer the Velcro on the shoes because the shoe adds weight to the chewing which increases oral proprioceptive input whereas single pieces of Velcro won’t give her this weight or added
pressure.

Here is what I would do:

* I would want the message to be that chewing on her shoes isn’t a healthy habit. Talk to her about “yucky germs” on the shoes.
* To give her the increased pressure from the Velcro, you could attach the industrial strength Velcro strip to a weighted object—like a heavy toy. Alternatively, the parents can play “tug of war” by holding onto one end of the Velcro and allowing the child to bite down on the other end.
* Set up some type of rewards and consequences to break the habit of chewing on her shoes. An appropriate consequence would be “washing” the shoes. Obviously this should be very simple since she is so young—simply using a wipe or wet paper towel on the Velcro. For a reward, the parents could simply be watching and if she hasn’t chewed the Velcro in awhile, they could say “Good job for not chewing on your shoes! I’m going to give you chewy granola bar since you haven’t been chewing on your shoes!” Any chewy or crunchy foods would be good rewards as well as playing “tug of war” or doing a preferred sensory activity.

I hope this helps! Please keep me posted if you find something that works!

Thank you,
Gwen

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