I was recently introduced to one really neat solution:
My girl goes through periods of time where she seems to crave the sensory input of chewing. I had to wonder, are these cool Tween Blings appropriate for young ladies on the autism spectrum? I e-mailed the company to ask; they say "Yes!" and sent me samples to try. This one is my favorite:
Made for mothers of teething babies, these necklaces are designed from food-safe silicone to be sanitary and safe teething jewelry for moms to wear for babies to chew. Smart Mom Jewelry took the idea a step further with designs that appeal to tweens and teens for the chewers out there.
The necklaces come in a couple of shapes, and quite a few colors and patterns.
The solid patterns pictured below are lightly scented. Now, let me tell you, I am sensitive to scents and avoid most anything scented. So, I was skeptical that I'd like a scented necklace. I was suprised (pleasantly) when they arrived. They are so lightly scented that when I removed them from their packages, I thought, "that scent will never last". We've had them over a month, and the scent is still as gentle today as the day we opened them. When I wear one of them, I find myself thinking of Pixie Stix a lot. They are so lightly scented that sometimes I don't smell them at all, and then I get a whiff of fruity-something that smells exactly like the Pixie Stix that I remember from childhood. And then I realize it is coming from my necklace. (I want to try the vanilla bean scented pendant.) Almost without fail, someone comments on one of the necklaces when I wear one. I have taken them off for someone to hold, feel, squeeze. (Yes, I need to throw them in the dishwasher! Good thing they're dishwasher safe.)
When I was wearing the pink swirly doughnut shaped pendant, one woman gushed over it and asked what kind of stone it is. She was surprised to feel it and see for herself what it is made from. She was also surprised to see how lightweight it is; the pendants look much heavier than they are.
The cord is soft with almost a silky feel, and I can tell you from experience that I have had to undo some knots that Li'l Bit put in them, and I was able to untangle the knots easily. That's a plus.
The cords snap together simply and have the safety feature of a breakaway clasp:
We have really enjoyed wearing these necklaces. We haven't chewed on them much, but I see how they would be attractive to a chewer. (If Li'l Bit goes through another chewing period, I'm ready for her.) For me, the fidgeter, they give my hands something to do when I'm in a meeting or waiting. The heart shaped pendant is easier for me to bend and squeeze than the doughnut shaped pendants.
I wondered if the silicone would feel fuzzy or sticky after some use. So far, so good. They still feel as smooth and clean as the day we got them (a little over a month ago). I'm impressed.
For the sensory kid, I really like the fact that they are an attractive accessory as opposed to necklaces I've seen made from sterilized aquarium tubing that scream "special needs" in a school or clinical setting. They're easier to keep up with and cleaner/neater than therapy putty, too, for squeezing, pinching, bending.
This is another item thatLi'l Bit likes to take off with and play with alone; I have had to keep an eye on them and her, and keep them out of her possession until we are going somewhere that she needs her fidget pendant. (In addition to squeezing and bending them and an rare nibble, she likes to remove hers from her neck and twirl it around her finger. When I try to do that, I usually wind up accidentally flinging mine across the room. They bounce when that happens. Not sure how my kid is able to twirl hers without sending it into orbit, but she's quite good at it.)
I showed the necklaces to an OT friend of mine who works with kids on the autism spectrum. She loved them and asked me for the web site; I wore one to a group of moms of special needs kids and they oooed and ahhed over my necklace. And I suspect that my sister will get one of mine when she sees them; she has a newborn (named after yours truly).
One of my friends said that she'd like to order some necklaces for church nursery staff. Babies always try to chew on the workers' necklaces. I would have loved a pendant with my firstborn. I held her all the time. (Twins the second time around were a bit more challenging for me; I couldn't hold them or wear them all the time, especially with a toddler, too.)
Teething Bling and Tween Bling range in price from $10 to just over $20; pendant and bangle sets are available for $34 and under.
Safety risks: Bottom line - use at your own risk. Ya know, I am not concerned about my middle schooler (who is NT) wearing one without my direct supervision. My daughter w/ asd is a different story. She doesn't get one of them unless we're together. I don't recommend that you leave your child unattended with a necklace, even with the safety precautions of the safe materials and breakaway clasps. If you have a heavy chewer (like mine used to be), your child might be able to bit through them (mine bit through other types of chewies when she was little), so you'd want to be right with the child and directly supervise them with a pendant. Use your own judgement about what you know about your own child. You are responsible for doing your homework and assessing and assuming risks for your situation.