Friday, April 2, 2010

The Boy Who Bites

When I first started my Facebook page, I asked what people wanted their children to learn and I read all the responses very carefully. I noticed several parents talking about their child biting, licking, putting things in their mouth inappropriately.

As it turns out, I'm having a similar problem with my little guy.

Charlie has always used his mouth more than he should. When he was very little, he used it when his vision wasn't helpful. This meant that he would often lick something up and down, but the neurologist assured us it was fine.

Well, we've worked diligently in the mouthing area, but then Charlie developed a new and terrible habit--self biting.

Let me say that I don't even want to talk about this. I HATE that he does this. HATE it. For me, it's like he's wearing a badge that says "mentally unstable." I feel like I do a decent job at accepting the things that I cannot change, but I this doesn't seem like that.

It started when he was refluxing. We went through a period where he was out of his Slippery Elm and I guess biting provided some sort of relief. Now, he bites as a stress reliever. Loud room full of people talking? Bite. Stretching? Bite.

So, I've been reading and researching and asking the professionals.

Some kids put things in their mouths for more sensory input. This is what Charlie was doing before. As they age, it's best to offer them appropriate outlets. You can encourage them to feel with their hands or give them something appropriate to put in their mouths. Some of the website even suggested fashioning a necklace out of a chewy material if a child is a mouther. No one mentioned gum, but I wonder if this would help with older kids.

For Charlie, however, it seems to be a frustration relief. I read a story about a girl who clenched her jaw in frustration and actually broke her teeth. I clench in my sleep and have had more than one trip to the dentist as a result. The goal doesn't appear to be self-injury since he never breaks the skin.

The recommendations from both the therapist and the neurologist has been to redirect. So, we've been keeping a multitude of chewy toys around and at the first sign of frustration, we hand it to him. This has helped a lot. I'd love it if he were never frustrated, but sometimes we all have to do things we don't want to--that's just a sad fact of life.

I guess I should also add that if he does get into the throws of biting, we rub his upper lip to make him let go. My husband explained that its some kind of pressure point or something. I might not have been paying attention. It works--rub the upper lip.

So there ya go. A rather painful admission (I don't know WHY I beat myself up about this stuff), what we're doing about it, and some pictures of Charlie sorting Easter Eggs.