reducing and replacement stimming

Reducing Barrier Stims

Using Redirection and Replacement techniques have reduced barrier behaviors.

As discussed in my previous article, some Stims (Self Stimulating Behavior) can create barriers to learning. Some children also use stims to block out the world around them when things become too overwhelming. Through Early Intervention, we learned lots of techniques that have helped reduce barrier Stims while giving Simon more appropriate activities to address his sensory needs.


When Simon was just around a year old, his stimming was obsessive and out of control. His very first stim was mouthing objects, and I mean anything and everything he could put into his mouth: toys, clothing, furniture, pillows, corners of tables and his crib. This type of behavior was way beyond the teething phase so the redirection method worked very well us.

First and most importantly, I removed all the objects that had become favorite chew toys. This way we could take a break from the association he had already made with those toys. Then I introduced a new toys that had a clear beginning and end to the play. For example, we got stacking rings, a simple 3-piece puzzle, and a shape sorter. Every time I took these toys out, I sat behind him and directed his hand to play with the toys appropriately and away from his mouth when he felt the urge to chew. This is important for two reasons. It eliminates having to say “No, don’t do that,” which can cause a negative experience and the hand-over-hand redirection helped create muscle memory for playing appropriately with these toys.

This was by far the hardest work I’ve ever done in EI. I literally spent my entire day sitting behind Simon for months and months using this redirection technique. I cried a lot. I drank a lot of wine after bedtime. It was exhausting. But Simon eventually got it and the urge to chew became less and less. Eventually I was sitting behind him and he was playing with these three toys without chewing all by himself and even started exploring their shapes and colors. Children learn through play and that exactly what started to happen.


While Simon was learning how to play with his toys, we still needed to provide an outlet for his sensory needs (ie the mouthing). So anytime he needed to chew, I gave him the alternative product “saying you can chew this,” and eventually he started asking for them on his own. Here’s a few of the chew products we loved:

Chewy Tubes – These colorful tubes are great for children that need strong sensory input, and they work really good when those two year molars pop in.

Nuk Brush – The little nubs on this brush really wake up the senses and can be used in conjunction with feeding therapies too!

Z-Vibe Brush – This brush vibrates and really gives the gums, cheeks, and tongue some great input.

The wonderful thing about redirection and replacement techniques is that they can be used to reduce many different types of barrier stims. I know it can seems overwhelming to start any new method, so feel free to send any questions you have in the comments.

Previously posted at Hudson Valley Parent Magazine.

*If you have any concerns about your child, please discuss with their pediatrician or contact your local school district or Early Intervention center for an evaluation.*