In my last blog, I discussed oral issues that can be triggered by dry skin or food, and how kids with autism may react to oral issues. In this blog, I’m going to discuss something my child has recently begun doing – finger licking.
In fourth grade, my child began to finger lick. Finger licking had never been one of his issues in the past. He has had years of on again, off again oral-related issues, but he had never licked his fingers and then rubbed them underneath his nose. Especially in school, this behavior was not appropriate or sanitary.
After the aide informed me of this behavior, I talked to my child about it.
What do we tell our child?
I said, “Licking your fingers is unhealthy.” I didn’t get into too much of the whole process he had developed – the wiping of a finger on the skin underneath his nose. I told him that his fingers are most likely dirty and that licking them could very well give him some kind of “sick bug.”
I also pointed out that this new behavior was distracting to his peers. This disturbs the whole class, and that was not acceptable.
The behavior got so bad that he licked his fingers one day and then asked his aide which way was better, to lick them slow or fast.
What did we do about this oral-related behavior?
I know my child licked his fingers for a reason. I talked to him about WHY he was licking so I could possibly pinpoint why he’s really doing it.
My son basically said, “I don’t know why I do it.” Not very helpful.
He took it too far one day and received a consequence he never likes, a one day loss of his electronics (computer, Wii, iPad, DVD player). He was very upset with this consequence, he complained and negotiated, but eventually accepted his consequence.
How did we help him?
I continued to tell him that finger licking is unhealthy. So did his aide. We both stressed that it is an inappropriate behavior. He is allowed to chew gum, but not lick his fingers.
I reminded him of the day he lost his electronics. He said that was a hard day, and I agreed. I was glad he remembered how hard that day was for him. Then, I reminded him of the reason why he lost his electronics – that licking his fingers at school was unacceptable and unsafe.
He did eventually stop this behavior and I never really found out why he was doing it in the first place. Due to my child’s history, I know his oral issues will return. That seems to be his pattern.
I hope the finger licking is gone for good, but, again, I’m not going to hold my breath.
I hope I’m giving him a foundation of understanding of what’s appropriate in the world and ways he can help himself that are appropriate. I just have to keep at it, time and time again.
To Find Kimberly Kaplan:
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”