Thumb / Finger Sucking Alternatives

Posted by Debra C. Lowsky, MS, CCC-SLP on 7th Apr 2016

Question:   My sensory child is more of a sucker than chewer.  She usually sucks on her thumb and fingers, but I am wanting to get her some other options for school and transitions.  She's 5.  What do you recommend?


Thumb/finger sucking can be a very hard habit to break - what works for one person may not work for the next.  Our products are mostly used by kids who need to chew.  Sucking isn’t as direct of a use for them, so I can’t be 100% sure she would use our tools as a substitute.  But some parents have successfully redirected the habit to our chew tools before, so I'd say it’s worth a shot.

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Thumb / Finger Sucking Alternatives

As a general rule for choosing a chew tool, I recommend trying to best match what the individual already likes to chew/suck on, as that will give you the best chance that the child will use it.  In this respect you're in luck  - many of our chew tools have long extensions  to reach the back molars, which means they're also long like fingers.  We also have both smooth and textured designs.  The smooth ones would most closely match the feel of one's hand.

That narrows the options down to: our  Grabber®, Saber Tooth, Krypto-Bite™ necklace, and/or Bite Saber™.

You may notice that all of the above products come in 3 color-coded toughness levels - soft/standard, XT (extra tough), and XXT (extra extra tough).  You'll want to choose the soft/standard ones.  The XT and XXT levels are for a moderate to intense need to chew, or for those who tend to cause damage to what they chew on, which is not applicable here.

Each time your daughter goes to suck on her fingers, remind her to use her "chewie" instead.  Be consistent and patient.  It also helps to get everyone involved in the redirecting (grandparents, babysitters, teachers, siblings, etc.), at least until it "sticks.

On a related note, it may also help to give her other alternatives for sucking - like frozen juice pops, lollipops, etc.  Let her drink through a straw with lots of loops and bends (which will require a stronger suck and therefore provide more input).  Drinking thick liquids like a milkshake or yogurt or applesauce through a straw may help.  And so forth.

Since it sounds like the sucking is sensory-related, an evaluation with an occupational therapist (OT) might be a good idea.  You can discuss this with her pediatrician who can refer you to an OT.  If necessary, the OT would put together what's called a "sensory diet" of activities to regulate her system and make sure she's getting the right amount of sensory / calming input throughout the day.

You may also find part of this related article helpful.

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I hope this helps!  I wish you both all the best,

Debbie

Debra C. Lowsky, MS, CCC-SLP

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