Question:

I have a student who licks his pencil lead before writing. He says it writes better that way. He is a third grader and has a lot of anxiety in the classroom. Any suggestions?

Answer:

Interesting. . . . Here are my thoughts:

  • This almost sounds like just one of those random behaviors. It could be a habit or even a compulsion of some sort. I’m not really inclined to think of this as a sensory behavior.
  • If it is a sensory issue, it will make sense as part of his overall sensory picture. Fill out a Sensory Symptoms Checklist under the “Free Printable Forms” heading. If you see a pattern of over- or under-responsivity, try a sensory diet to meet his needs to see if the pencil licking stops.
  • If the behavior is more of a way to calm the anxiety, many of the red-arrow sensory diet activities will help to reduce the anxiety and therefore may reduce his pencil licking as well.
  • Whether it is sensory or not, it’s not healthy, so I wouldn’t allow it. Try offering an alternative, such as sucking on a peppermint while doing writing tasks.

I hope this helps! Keep me posted on what ends up working for this kid!

Best Wishes,
Gwen