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3rd grader licking desks/books and inappropriate touching of students

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Any ideas on what interventions would work for a student who touches things and people inappropriately? He also has a difficult time following directions. I was thinking sensory processing disorder, but I'm not a therapist. I was reading that perhaps a lot of sensory opportunities, but I don't know how appropriate this would be in a classroom setting. Shoot your ideas my way!

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You will need to get to the root cause of the behaviors. Start by asking the parents if the student does the same things at home and in other contexts. Are there things that you or parents do that make the child stop the behavior? Are there things that occur right before the behavior starts?

Possible causes for licking things are: a)Pica - a disorder characterized by eating things that have no nutritional value (rocks, dirt, etc.) sometimes caused by nutritional deficiencies (iron, zinc). The student would likely be ingesting things, rather than licking them; b) If the student is not ingesting things and just licking them, it could be a sensory seeking behavior that falls under the umbrella of sensory processing/modulation disorders and would require an assessment and treatment with an occupational therapist. If your school has an OT, consult with them to see if they will observe the study. They can give you a good idea of what you're dealing with if it is a sensory issue.

As for the inappropriate touching of students, I would need to know what you mean by "inappropriate touching". Is it touching of a sexual nature? Or the kid just can't keep his/her hands to self in general? For the latter I would assume it is due to impulse control issues - kids with ADHD (of the hyperactive type) often have difficulty remaining still, need to move, and show sensory seeking behaviors because their brains are seeking stimulation. As much as I really do hate the idea of kids having fidgets in the classroom, here is where I would recommend that the student be able to use something to keep the hands busy.


Also pay attention to anything in the environment that is positively reinforcing the behavior: (e.g. the touching gets a reaction from others around the student, other kids think it's funny, the student gets attention, etc.) and find a substitution for what the student was seeking in the first place. A lot of times if you keep these kids active by giving them little jobs (hand out papers, bring stuff to office, pick up papers, etc.) they are very happy to be able to be helpful rather than always getting in trouble! Plus, they often have the energy to be a helper all day long (as long as you vary the tasks throughout the day) 😉

Hope that's helpful!

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Does this child have any tics? Does he frequently blink, toss his head, snort, or make other sounds? Do these behaviors occur most frequently when there is a lot of stimulation (noise, activity, high energy in the room)?

I'm wondering if he could possibly have Tourettes Syndrome? I've seen behaviors like this initially interpreted as a behavior problem, until it was properly diagnosed later. It's possible licking or touching others can be tics. Tics can also change (a child may bark for several months, then it disappears, but now he is tossing his head and snorting).

Getting a diagnosis is helpful for the child's self-esteem, and it helps ensure that he is not punished for the disorder. Tics can be much reduced when the adults recognized the symptoms and provide support (time in a quiet area, choices about doing things that increase tics, etc). When the adults don't understand and assume the behaviors are a choice (provided consequences etc.) student stress levels may increase, which increases the tics, and it would become a cycle.

Some folks assume Tourettes is just about swearing (corprolalia) but it can be other urges as well - everything from licking strangers to having to climb on tables.  I hope this student gets the help he needs, and if he has TS, that the adults are able to provide the supports he needs for a healthy and happy childhood.

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