Can chronic skin picking or nail & finger biting be a sign of SPD in a 3yr old?

by Angela
(Orlando, Florida)

My son has only a few of the SPD check list symptoms but relative to the depth and severity of these descriptions, I'd guess if it is SPD, it is very mild. He has the clothing sensitivity (tags "hurt" to the point of screaming until removed, underpants inside out to avoid itchy tag, picky about socks & shoes, nothing around neck- no turtleneck, no bibs when he was a baby). He sometimes doesn't feel pain (one time he stood in ants & got bit 20+ times but didn't notice or complain of blistered bites). But the most chronic issue is nail & finger biting and scab picking. And it does seem to come & go.


Just when we think we should call in our referral, he takes a break on it so we think he's grown out of it (it started ~18mos & he's 3.5 yrs). When he is starting up again, He bites or picks to the point of bleeding & then wants a bandaid. We bought boring bandaids as to lesson the reinforcement of the behavior ( we thought it was the cool pictures that he sought at first or that he was stalling at bedtime & seeking attention) but that hasn't made a difference. We started to coddle him at bedtime to decrease the behavior (snuggle, stay with him until sleepy & encourage incompatible behavior like snuggling soft toys), but that is only a momentary fix. Now he argues and insists on chewing or picking, like he knows what we are trying & isnt going to fall for it. He doesn't cry, he just says, "I got hurt".

He chewed his toe nail off once, but for the most part injury is minor. otherwise he's completely normal in development and doesn't really fit the mold of the SPD, early intervention qualified checklist. Oh, except that we think he is color blind b/w red, green & black, white...but is that really related? At what point do we need to consider this as potential SPD & is it best to get diagnosed in lab or at home? We have a referral but it is for a home therapist. And chewing is mostly in bed at night so therapist won't see this. He doesn't do these things much in the day or around other people. It's more of a night time anxiety self soothing type thing.

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Oct 16, 2012
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nail biting
by: Janice

My 8 year old son definitely fits the SPD model, but it is my understanding that not all children have all the behaviors. He bites his nails too the quick since he was old enough to do so. The school gave him a "chewy" that is T shaped and he chewed on that a bit instead of his pencils, but socially he didn't like it much in 1st grade. We found that giving him manicures (his older sister is the one that he allows this from)is helpful and he himself put bandaids on his fingers last week to try to stop himself. His toes are in the same shape. He is now on anxiety medicine that helps him cooperate in school so that he can retain the information - called Intuniv - and in the first month he has gone up several reading levels. After school it has pretty much warn off, but we find if we keep him busy with art, particularly clay and painting, he doesn't bite his nails as much. Also exercise with the large muscle groups calm him down...even before bed.

My son doesn't take direction or helpful criticism well, and is overly critical of himself and doesn't take compliments well at all...his nail biting is concerning but his other behaviors are more of a struggle. One thing that has helped is discussing the germs that are on hands and that enter his body when he bites his nails, as he is extra concerned about being clean...I really empathize with your concerns...your son is in good hands. All the best.

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