Most of the information we see today about sensory processing disorder revolves around children, which makes sense because sensory issues are typically discovered early-on in life. It’s common to hear about sensory intervention strategies for young children, sensory play activities for babies & toddlers, the best toddler toys to stimulate sensory learning, and so forth. What’s not often discussed, however, is that these children eventually grow up. And when they do, their sensory toys and activities must grow up and adapt with them.
This post is sponsored by and written collaboratively with ARK Therapeutic.
The sensory spectrum is complex, but typically oral sensory needs fall into two camps: sensory avoiders or sensory seekers.
Oral sensory avoiders will typically do just that – avoid anything in or around their mouths. They may not like their teeth to be brushed, for instance. And/or they may avoid certain textures or foods. This is often called “oral defensiveness.”
On the other hand, sensory seekers will actively seek out oral input. They tend to like intense flavors gravitate towards crunchy foods. They may also grind their teeth, and oftentimes they feel the need to chew on non-food items. For example, your child may chew on their pencil erasers, shirt collars, sleeves, their hands, etc. Why? Chewing can be very calming, focusing, and organizing. It’s a common way for children with sensory needs, anxiety, and/or ADHD, etc. to regulate their systems.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on oral sensory seekers and introduce you to several options for older children (5-years-old and up) who need a safe outlet to chew on, which is where ARK Therapeutic comes in!
ARK is a family company that designs and manufactures sensory solutions and therapy tools. The founders are a husband and wife duo, John and Debbie Lowsky. As a speech-language pathologist, Debbie had always seen a need to chew in many of her therapy kids.
But 15 years ago, chew toys for older kids simply didn’t exist. So Debbie and John (an engineer) decided to create the Grabber to meet this need (a P shaped chew that you may have seen before). They’ve since come out dozens of other oral motor chewables. The textured and scented ones are particularly appealing for sensory seekers. Check out all of them here and read their full story here
Why are these solutions perfect for older children (and even adults)?
1. ARK’s chew tools come in 3 different toughness levels. The standard ones are very chewy and bendy for mild chewers or those who tend to chew on soft items. The XT (“Xtra Tough”) options are firmer for moderate chewers. And they even have XXT (“Xtra Xtra Tough”) that’s very firm for avid chewers or if your child likes to chew on very hard objects.
2. The shapes are long enough to reach the back molars from older children through adults. This provides the most information to their sensory system.
3. The chewelry in particular is very discreet – the prism and lego-shaped pendants look like regular jewelry.
4. The chewable pencil toppers are a convenient way to chew in the classroom. As an added bonus, having a pencil topper on the end of the pencil adds just enough weight to help stabilize the hand. For those who need even more input, the Tran-Quill Vibrating Pencil has both a weighted and chewable component, as well as vibration (which adds more sensory input without affecting the handwriting at all).
Bonus: all ARK products are designed, manufactured, and assembled in the USA!
For oral sensory seekers, the first step is to provide them with one of these safe outlets to chew on. But please note that this is not an end-all-be-all fix. Sensory seekers typically also benefit from other calming activities and sensory strategies from a variety of professionals. For example, it’s highly recommended that any child with sensory needs be evaluated by an OT to see if a sensory diet could be helpful.
ARK Therapeutic also offers lots of other fine motor, oral motor, and feeding/drinking products. Be sure to head over and check them out, as well as follow them on Facebook,Twitter, Pinterest,YouTube, and Instagram, where they run giveaways and share helpful advice.