Hi, It has been a while since my last visit. I have a first grader who is displaying odd, even unsafe, behaviors. I am trying to determine the cause of this behavior. First of all, he eats everything: crayons, playdough, paper, erasers, parts of pencils, literally anything that is small enough to fit in his mouth. I have talked to his mom and she is not overly concerned. He does not simply chew on it, he swallows it too! Last week he started sucking on his arm. He will suck on it until he has a raised welt. He told me he is trying to make it bleed. Today he kissed and licked the toilet in the boys restroom. Each time one of these things happens, I correct him, act appalled, take away what ever is in his mouth, try to explain why the behavior is unhealthy or unsafe. I have also called his mom several times. She is never overly concerned. I have had the counselor talk to him a few times but the behaviors continue.
I am just really concerned about this little guy. I mean, is this kind of behavior a sign of abuse or something. I have tried googling these things but came up empty handed. Has anyone ever had a student with this kind of behavior? Did you know what caused it? How did you get it stopped?
There could be a variety of reasons why the behavior is happening, but is probably outside the realm of what you'd be able to do within a classroom unfortunately. It definitely sounds like a sensory related issue, but could be more medically based, be more attention-seeking, be a self-soothing technique, etc. Causes could range from, again, more medical issues to things like Autism, but the behaviors themselves don't necessarily confirm or rule out any of those things. You'd definitely want to have an assessment done both on the psychological end as well as medical end, particularly because the behaviors are dangerous, and ignoring does not seem to be a reasonable solution.
Is anyone at your school supportive of trying to learn more or do something else? The counselor, social worker, school psychologist, or an admin? If so, really encouraging the parent to seek out additional help might be important. You could also pursue things on the school end - if you have a child study team, student/teacher assistance team, problem-solving team, etc., I'd definitely bring that up at the next meeting and see where that goes. You might not get a full evaluation because there isn't necessarily a learning-related issue, but such behavior certainly could impact behavior, so you might be able to pursue evaluation under 504 or perhaps OHI, but you'd have to demonstrate educational impact (that the child was losing access to some element of the curriculum).
Another route would be to treat it as a disciplinary issue and write office referrals each time it happened, thus forcing the parent to get involved and making it inconvenient for them to have to come to school each time this was addressed.
Another route - after others have been attempted - would be to call social services if parents refuse to do nothing, as they are ignoring self-injurious behaviors and thus placing their child at harm.
Depending on the severity and frequency of events, you may move to some of these options more or less quickly.
I have a student like this (other than the licking of the toilet). He would stick his whole hand in his mouth if I don't stop him. I can't give him an eraser (I take them off of his pencils too) because he will eat it. He has eaten crayons, licked the bottom of his boots, licked basketballs, he has eaten the lining out of his winter jacket, etc... He doesn't eat "found" food items, he eats non-food items only.
My student is quite compulsive and I find he is more likely to put things in his mouth when he is stressed or frustrated and when others make a big deal about it. I don't do much about it, I use hand sanitizer on his hands when he can't stop putting it in his mouth and I don't let him store anything in his desk. I also pre-warn of consequences for putting things in his mouth when I do give him non-food items that he likes to eat.
Thanks for the responses. This little guy is in SAT (Student Asssistance Team aka Child Study) He is being referred for an MDT evaluation. Possibly MI. Mother's lack of concern could be because she may also be low functioning. She is unable to come to the school due to a lack of transportation. I have tried ignoring or drawing little attention to his appetite for inedibles. However, he seems to escalate. When I "jump on him" for eating, or sucking his arm etc, he stops the behavior for a brief period of time, a few days to a week. My biggest concern right now is that I don't want to miss a sign of abuse if that is what this is. We are having a meeting on him later this week. Mom will attend via phone. Maybe the best thing is to get more adults aware and involved in his case. Right now it is just me, the counselor and principal.
There is certainly no guarantee of what it is or isn't indicative of, but that behavior wouldn't strike me as abuse related. Sounds like you've got things heading in a good direction in terms of additional support.
Each time one of these things happens, I correct him, act appalled, take away what ever is in his mouth, try to explain why the behavior is unhealthy or unsafe.
I think you did the right thing to talk to the mom. I would also talk to the principal and counselor if you have one. I would suggest having a meeting with the parent and principal to make it clear to the parent the seriousness of the situation. Sometimes when parents blow off a serious situation, it can be a sign that worse things are happening at home.
In the mean time, I would try to give this child a lot of praise and attention for other things he does correct. While attention seeking is probably not the main cause of such bizarre behavior, it might be part of it. Try to give little energy to when he does these behaviors. A simple consequence for these actions might be needed though to reduce the possibility of them reoccurring. So it doesn't make it look like you are favoring the boy too much, make sure other students get lots of praise as well.
Hopefully a medical doctor or other expert can find out how to get to the bottom of the situation.
Definitely refer this child for more help. Pica can be extremely dangerous - even deadly. Stressors such as maternal deprivation, family issues, parental neglect, pregnancy, poverty, and a disorganized family structure are strongly linked to pica.
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