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Thumb sucking substitutes? In line with chewing items - Primary education

(26 Posts)
Italiangreyhound Sun 05-Jul-15 16:44:58

Thumb sucking substitutes? In line with chewing items - Primary education

Hi all, I am not sure if this is the right place at all but I would like to ask...

Can anyone recommend a thumb sucking substitute, e.g. like this
for my dd.

This one looks the most like a regular necklace and comes in a choice of colours and is the cheapest, so i would go for this if had no other info to go on!

cheapdisabilityaids.co.uk/chewit-elephant-bling-16694-p.asp

But there are other options...

This one is rather 'funky'....

cheapdisabilityaids.co.uk/chewigem-pumpkin-4174-p.asp

This looks OK....

cheapdisabilityaids.co.uk/ark-brick-stick-chew-27967-p.asp

Even this cheapdisabilityaids.co.uk/ark-grabber-9802-p.asp if we could add to a leather strip or chain around her neck.

If a necklace is not allowed this bangle may also work. cheapdisabilityaids.co.uk/chewy-bangle-7314-p.asp

Or this one, which may fit better as it has a gap in it cheapdisabilityaids.co.uk/chewy-tactile-tiger-bracelet-19306-p.asp

DD doesn't chew she sucks but I wonder if this may work?

My fear is this will become a dependency itself but may be better, in the long run, than being a thumb sucker.

I am looking for something that can give her the comfort she needs but will not push her teeth out and will not make her stand out as a thumb sucker at secondary school.

She is 10, very dyslexic, about two to three years behind the rest of the class (or the majority of it) but very bright and vibrant. For the last five years we have had difficult behaviour at home and lack of concentration at school. We have sought help and got little. But in the last year we have had more help, and now have a cmhs referral.

DD has certain sensory issues, doesn't like the feel of socks, jeans, tight clothes etc, and also doesn't like loud noises. I feel the thumb sucking, which started when she was less than 12 days old, is a way she calms herself and every single attempt to stop it has failed. It has pushed her teeth out and given her bad breath at times!

Any advice at all, please?

I expect I will need to get special 'permission' from school for my dd to 'wear' this/use this.

I am posting in a few places hence differentiating in my subject line.

Italiangreyhound Sun 05-Jul-15 16:46:48

Thank you grin

CherylBerylMeryl Sun 05-Jul-15 16:58:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Italiangreyhound Sun 05-Jul-15 17:03:35

Thanks CherylBerylMeryl I have spoken to school staff about this but want to check it is on her record. Good point about the germs!

WombatStewForTea Sun 05-Jul-15 17:05:39

I can't imagine the school having a problem with any of those ideas. We have a fair few who have 'chewelry' which I was going to suggest, but from what you describe the ones you've already linked to look like they might be more suitable.

QuiteQuietly Sun 05-Jul-15 20:13:56

Unless your DD has complex needs or is breaking the skin on her thumb, I would personally try to avoid the chewellery.

Is it a habit or does it deliver comfort? If it's a just a habit, then a plaster on the thumb, clear nail varnish on the thumb nail etc. may help to remind her to remove thumb from mouth. If it's comforting, is it the actual sucking which comforts or the thumb in mouth position?

If it's the sucking itself, try substituting sucking the tongue to the roof of the mouth (tip of tongue resting almost against the back of top teeth creating a small vacuum on the upper palette). With a bit of experimentation at home you can find a position which almost replicates the feeling that thumb sucking delivers (which will vary from person to person depending on their preferred thumb position and sucking/suckling action).

If it's the thumb in mouth position which comforts, then resting the thumb in the soft hollow under the chin and the forefinger up against the side of the nose (straight or curled, depending on usual position). This is surprisingly comforting and is a neat sidestep to the thumb in mouth/teeth splaying issue, as well as being more hygienic.

Once you have identified an appropriate substitute I would recommend prompting DD to use it at home in comfy situations (snuggling up in bed at night, watching cartoons before bed etc. etc.). Once it is in regular unprompted use in cozy situations, you may find it transitions automatically to school. Otherwise a plaster on the thumb is usually enough to gently remind DD to adopt her alternative should the thumb stray into the mouth.

If the thumb sucking is recoursed to frequently during the day, you may be able to get a GP referral for CBT/habit reversal therapy, mentioning upcoming transition to secondary. Lots of hospitals run short courses for young people with Tourette's and associated conditions, and I've seen thumb suckers/hair tuggers etc. benefitting from learning useful strategies.

TheyreMadITellYouMaaaad Sun 05-Jul-15 20:18:21

Does she want to make this change?

Italiangreyhound Mon 06-Jul-15 00:02:19

QuiteQuietly thanks for all the ideas. Why would you * avoid the chewellery.*

TheyreMadITellYouMaaaad she is willing to try.

TheyreMadITellYouMaaaad Mon 06-Jul-15 07:26:51

Good.

There is a device you can use to help her break the habit. I used it with my dd several years ago. Unfortunately I can't remember the name, so you'll have to google for it. It is a silicon sleeve that fits loosely around the thumb, with retaining straps that go securely around the wrist. The end of the thumb sleeve is open. The child wears the device 24h a day for as long as necessary, taking it off once a day to clean it and change the securing bracelet. May sound barbaric, but dd found it perfectly comfortable, not at all distressing, and it did not stop her from doing anything.

The thumb sleeve is open at the end, so the child can still put their thumb in their mouth, but cannot form a seal to get any suction.

For us it was very successful, but I made the mistake of not providing dd with a replacement object or activity. I think that is why she started picking at her nails and lips. Thumb-sucking turned out to be more than just a habit, but also a self-soothing behaviour. Or possibly also a sort of stimming behaviour. When we addressed the picking behaviour several years later, I made sure to provide several options for more appropriate behaviour.

So IMO you need to start removing the sucking, while providing several acceptable alternatives, and help her choose. I really would not encourage your dd to replace thumb-sucking with tongue sucking, as that could easily open her to ridicule, especially if she carried on into adulthood.

The replacements don't necessarily need to be oral. For years I carried smooth things in my pocket (a little piece of Formica, a silk band) and would wind them around my fingers and stroke my lips with them, still do that with my pearl jewellery. Dd's favourite twiddle is to clip hair clips open and shut (confused), so I've got her a spiral elastic Minions bracelet. It's discreet enough to wear under school uniform, stiff enough to satisfy her her need to press and tug, and the Minion charms are smooth enough to satisfy her need to twiddle with smooth objects or stroke against her mouth.

Not got anything against chew-objects, BTW, just that they can be very obvious, and need to be constantly available otherwise the person will find something else to chew, and chewing is not always appropriate or healthy.

I think you need to provide a variety of alternatives, and let her settle on what works for her, which may not be oral at all.

HTH smile

QuiteQuietly Mon 06-Jul-15 12:00:04

Italian All my objections to chewellery are similar to the objections to thumb sucking:-

It's unhygienic, obvious to onlookers, inhibits jaw development/straight teeth, possibly a source of embarrassment as DC get older, habit forming and hard to break. If you remove the chewellery in future (while awaiting replacement from loss or damage, or to cut the habit) there is a good chance she will find something to replace it - thumb again, clothing, collar buttons, hair, chewing the inside cheek, proper necklaces not designed to withstand chewing with swallowable parts, pens etc. etc.

As TheyreMad wrote, it's good to find something more subtle to replace the activity with. So a good discussion to explore what sensation she is creating and some experimentation to find a more appropriate way to deliver that comfort. Sucking the tongue (with mouth closed, creating a small vacuum against the roof of the mouth), resting the thumb underneath the chin, wriggling toes rhythmically, circular breathing, seeking the sensation the breath makes gently entering and leaving the nose, crossing fingers, making a fist by holding the thumb slightly stretched inside the other fingers. Ideally the replacement would be discreet and not require an accessory. Think long term - what could she get away with as an adult? I notice adults doing small comforting actions all the time because I am used to noticing them, but most people pay little attention. They would notice a thumb sucker or plastic necklace chewer though. I wriggle my feet in a pattern - it's not noticeable when I wear shoes.

Italiangreyhound Mon 06-Jul-15 17:09:41

TheyreMadITellYouMaaaad thanks we tried the thumb things at night, or at least one kind, ours as called thumb guard, it did not work.

Quietly re a plaster on the thumb, clear nail varnish on the thumb nail etc. may help to remind her - we tried the plaster and also the nail polish that tastes horrible for nail biters, I think it is called stop it. It did not work.

and If the thumb sucking is recoursed to frequently during the day, you may be able to get a GP referral for CBT/habit reversal therapy, mentioning upcoming transition to secondary. Lots of hospitals run short courses for young people with Tourette's and associated conditions, and I've seen thumb suckers/hair tuggers etc. benefitting from learning useful strategies. I will ask about this if it does not stop with the chew items. DD is not very good with strangers and just being refereed to camhs is worrying her but clearly I want to do whatever will help her, and I had not though of this, so thank you.

I tend to agree with you about the alternatives but I am just at a bit of a loss, I do think professional help would be good. Sometimes my dd can be quite hard to parent and her own worst enemy, sad

TheyreMadITellYouMaaaad Mon 06-Jul-15 17:59:01

When you tried the stopping techniques did you (a) do them 24h/day, (b) keep going for several weeks, and (c) provide substitutes at the same time?

QuiteQuietly Mon 06-Jul-15 19:20:48

The plasters and nail varnish only work if she wants to stop and if you have an alternative set up. They just remind the user when they absentmindedly drift the thumb into the mouth.

Will you be meeting with camhs? I would add it to your list of issues and push for it to be included in any treatment/therapy plan. If there are behavioural issues it can be included with other coping strategies. Or, once other things are straightened out you may find the thumb sucking winds down by itself. But definitely mention it.

Italiangreyhound Mon 06-Jul-15 19:44:40

QuiteQuietly re Will you be meeting with camhs? yes, Re * I would add it to your list of issues and push for it to be included in any treatment/therapy plan. If there are behavioural issues it can be included with other coping strategies. Or, once other things are straightened out you may find the thumb sucking winds down by itself. But definitely mention it.*

Brilliant, thank you, I will.

balletgirlmum Mon 06-Jul-15 19:48:37

We used a thumb guard for dd. Think she was about 8 years old. You have to wear it day & night. She was only allowed to take it off during recorder practice at school. It worked in just two weeks.

Worth persevering with.

Italiangreyhound Tue 07-Jul-15 00:36:48

balletgirlmum my dd learned to take her thumb guard off.

madwomanbackintheattic Tue 07-Jul-15 00:46:10

But then she did not want to stop, and now she does. So you need to discuss not taking it off and provide her with an alternative to removing the guard and thumb sucking?

madwomanbackintheattic Tue 07-Jul-15 00:47:16

I realise that's easier said than done - I have a similar kid who removes his enuresis alarm...

Italiangreyhound Tue 07-Jul-15 00:53:46

Mad I cannot really say if she wants to do this or not.

Would she like to not need to suck her thumb for comfort.
Probably.

Is she willing to get a chewy necklace to use instead of sucking her thumb? Yes.

Will it work?
I doubt it.

I just do not want her to go to high school in just over a year and still be thumb sucking, and she is probably not bothered.

Glad it worked for your dd.

TheyreMadITellYouMaaaad Tue 07-Jul-15 06:59:52

Bribery?

Italiangreyhound Wed 08-Jul-15 00:18:06

I can try bribery but really my dd can't be bribed. She is too strong willed. In some ways it is blessing, and I respect her for it. I think thumb sucking is a compulsion, like smoking. Most adults who want to smoke could not be bribed to stop.

missymoomoomoo Wed 08-Jul-15 00:30:42

As someone who sucked their thumb for 19 years, I would recommend hypnotherapy. It's been 4 years and my thumb has never gone back in my mouth. Not only did I suck my thumb I also picked at my face and that has all stopped. My parents tried everything; bribes, plasters, that nail polish stuff and nothing worked. I just wish I had had it sooner!

Italiangreyhound Wed 08-Jul-15 03:22:59

missymoomoomoo glad it worked for you.

TheyreMadITellYouMaaaad Wed 08-Jul-15 06:55:05

Stopping the thumb sucking will only work if dd wants to stop. If she is a bit half-hearted about it, then bribery/rewards may help strengthen her resolve.

Italiangreyhound Thu 09-Jul-15 02:27:27

Thank you Mad.

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