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Stims That Can Replace Thumb Sucking for ASD

Thumb sucking is a common habit among children, and persistent thumb sucking can harm oral health and development, cause infections, and damage the skin around the thumb. For autistic kids and adults, thumb sucking can be an essential self-soothing strategy to cope with sensory overload and a difficult habit to break. Consider stims that can replace thumb sucking for ASD.

Why Do Some Autistic People Suck Their Thumbs?

Persons with autism are prone to self-stimulatory behavior, called stims or stimming, such as rocking back and forth, hand flapping, humming, or repeatedly stroking a favorite blanket, item of clothing, or body part.

These activities are called stims, and an autistic child or adult does them to soothe themselves when they’re feeling overwhelmed. They may resort to thumb sucking when confronted with multiple sensory inputs, such as loud noise, crowds, bright lights, different smells, or unfamiliar flavors.

Thumb sucking can be a form of stimming that autistic people find soothing. However, it can cause dental deformation, speech impediments, infections, blisters, and even difficulty swallowing. Fortunately, there are stims that can replace thumb sucking for ASD.

Is Thumb Sucking Stimming or Typical Age-Related Behavior?

Before intervening to break the thumb-sucking habit, ask whether the behavior is stimming or normal childhood behavior. Most infants suck their thumbs, but most kids stop on their own by the time they are 3 or 4 years old.

However, persistent thumb sucking at any age can cause malocclusion of the teeth and deformation of the mouth and jaw. Check with a pediatric dentist or orthodontist to determine the severity of the behavior and whether it requires immediate intervention.

Alternative Stims for Kids With ASD

One option is to introduce a “comfort object” that can provide the same soothing sensation without damaging your child’s dental health. This could be a stuffed animal, blanket, or pillow that they can hold and cuddle. Sensory items such as weighted blankets and fidgets can also provide tactile stimulation and calm a child with ASD.

Other stims that can replace thumb sucking for ASD include squeezing or stretching putty, popping bubble wrap, playing with kinetic sand, or playing games such as Simon Says. Encouraging your child to engage in calming activities, such as forming jigsaw puzzles, building with blocks, or drawing, can also be helpful.

Devices to stop thumb sucking can also help if the autistic person can endure wearing them. The T-Guard AeroThumb allows the child to continue the behavior but takes away the pleasurable or soothing sensation that thumb sucking provides. This causes them to stop thumb sucking and seek alternative ways to soothe themselves.

By introducing other stims that can replace thumb sucking for ASD, you can help your child develop healthier habits that will benefit them for years to come. With patience and understanding, you can create a calm and secure environment tailored to their individual needs.