QUESTION:

I have a student who licks the lead of his pencil 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?

GWEN’S ANSWER:

Interesting. . . . Here are my thoughts:

  • This almost sounds like just one of those random behaviors. 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 (there is one on my site under the “Forms” tab). If you see a pattern of over- or under-responsivity, try a sensory diet to meet his needs and maybe the pencil licking will stop.
  • If the behavior is more of a way to calm the anxiety, a lot of the “red arrow” sensory diet activities will help to reduce the anxiety and therefore may reduce the pencil licking as well.
  • Whether it is sensory or not, it’s not healthy, so I wouldn’t allow it. Try offering an alternative, like sucking on a peppermint while doing writing tasks.

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

Best Wishes,
Gwen