Is it sensory or anxiety or medications?

by Bonnie Anderson, OT
(Charlotte, MI)

I have a Kindergarten student who picks his nails so severely that there is hardly anything left. He wears bandaids, if he keeps them on. This happens usually during group time at carpet. He sits on the back row, last one, and seems comfortable during instruction. We have tried brushing, theraputty, clay, and offering to let him go for a sensory break for deep pressure. Nothing seems to work and he now tries to hide and do it as his Mom tries to force him to stop.


Please help me understand this. I love him dearly. He is doing all classroom activities, academic and all, with paraprofessional support all day.

Any ideas will be most helpful. Thanks

Comments for Is it sensory or anxiety or medications?

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Jan 23, 2011
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anxiety vs sensory vs medications....
by: Anonymous

My son used to bite holes in all his shirts in kindergarten. He has sensory issues but I Think he had a lot of anxiety.

Jan 05, 2011
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Pressure can make it worse.
by: Rachel

My little girl has issues with pulling out her hair and though that isn't entirely the same thing I can relate. I did find that the higher my anxiety about her doing it the more she does it. In other words I can't force her to stop no matter how much I want to (which is alot!) I found that distraction, such as fidget toys and positive reinforcement works best. I believe these behaviors are compulsive in nature, which is why they are so difficult to stop. If the child feels ashamed and guilty for it they tend to do it even more. It's very tough on family and caretakers to watch, but be assured he is probably not doing it out of anger towards himself. If he has sensory issues he may not even feel pain during it and may be getting input that he craves. That is why my daughter hair pulls. One idea is to try to find another way to give him that type of input where he is not harming himself. Good luck.

Dec 18, 2010
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behavioral therapy
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I've recently been reading a book to help my son who has autism, and I struggle with his behavioral problems. The book is entitled "Overcoming Autism: Finding the Answers, Strategies, and Hope That Can Transform a Childs Life" In the book it explains about behavioral problems and how to find out why a child is doing a self injury behavior, and how to do positive interventions to discourage the "bad" behavior. It is a very interesting book to help understand why people behave and for a desirable consequence. It may not be either sensory or anxiety, but he maybe biting to get a desired reaction or attention. I hope this might helps you as much as it has for me.

Dec 16, 2010
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anxiety?
by: Angie

My son did that for years. In preschool he would pick them so bad they would bleed. He's on a small dose of Prozac now and he doesn't pick them to bleed anymore. He is a nail biter too though. He's 10 now.

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