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Q&A: Tapping Annoying Others?


I have a student and one of the things that he does is tap or strum his finger on the desk. He says he needs to hear something becuse it helps him think. The tapping causes others around him to be distracted and become annoyed. The only thing I have come up with so far is for him to tap by his ear, that way he hears the beat, but it less bothersome to those around him. Any suggestions you might have would be greatly appreciated!


These auditory behaviors can indeed be difficult to address. You may have already tried some of these, but here are a few suggestions:

1. If it’s truly sound he needs, maybe allowing him to use an iPod would help. He can listen to his favorite music during work time.
2. When the music needs to be off (like when the teacher is speaking), encourage the use of a fidget toy to keep his fingers busy.
3. He is probably an under-responder. Think of other ways (besides sound) to stimulate him: Velcro strip under his desk, gum, sit disc, straddle the chair, etc.
4. Keep talking about social appropriateness. He needs to learn that he can meet his needs in a way that doesn’t have a negative impact on others. Reward his efforts to use other strategies to self-modulate. Point out that he’s really smart to have figured out that tapping helps him focus. Ask him to think about other things he can do that have the same effect. Maybe he’ll come up with something we haven’t thought of!
5. Consider that the tapping might be indicating the need for rhythm. If that’s the case, he may benefit from having a metronome available to him. You can use traditional piano-player style metronomes, but probably the best option would be a metronome app for an iPod. He could leave it on or in his desk and the rhythm may be just what he needs to focus. Research indicates setting it to 60 beats per minute is likely to be the most beneficial. There is a free app through iTunes simply called “Metronome.” Or, the teacher could leave this internet-based metronome on:

If he was seated close to her desk, he could benefit from this being played on her computer. Most kids seem to like the rhythm. The key is to keep it at a low volume—almost to where you have to think about it to hear it.

I hope that helps! Please let me know if you find a strategy to be particularly helpful to this student so I can share that with others!

Best Wishes,