What Causes Biting?
You’ve probably heard this statement before: “behavior is communication.”
If you have a child or a student who is biting, it’s important to sort out the reason why they are biting. It may be helpful to consider this from the “ABC” standpoint:
Antecedent: what was happening before the child bit? who was around? was it too loud? were they upset?
Behavior: who or what did the child bite?
Consequence: what was the result of the child biting? Did someone react? Did the child have a punishment?
- Does the child have the ability to communicate their wants and needs?
- Did the child need or want something? (food, attention, help, a toy, sensory input, etc.)
- Was the child feeling an intense emotion? (fear, anger, etc.)
- Are the child’s senses integrated? (do they have access to sensory input for chewing, do they have enough or too much food/sleep/noise/sensory input?, etc?
What are Some Ways to Help?
First, be sure to identify the “why” behind the biting. Make sure the child’s needs are met, including access to communication. This may mean having the child seen for a speech-language evaluation if there are delays or barriers to communication.
Next, you might consider visual supports. Social stories or poster visuals can be helpful for teaching kids what TO do. It can also be helpful to have something safe to bite or chew to offer the child as a replacement for another person. You can find some of my favorite sensory tools here.
I like to use social stories with real photos, especially from the child’s natural environment whenever I can. I have an editable social story for oral safety (“No Biting”) on TpT and available on this website, as well. It offers a fully editable google slides version that you can customize to meet your needs. It also adds visuals for what TO do, what NOT to do (different children benefit from different types of visuals), and 5 options for printable social stories. I included options you can write in, which is ideal for gestalt learners- you can write your own gestalts!
Last, try to be as consistent as possible. This can be hard to do- especially if you are the one bitten. If the student seems to enjoy when someone reacts or screams, try to minimize the reaction if at all possible. Keep your parenting and teaching methods for handling undesired behaviors consistent with the dynamics of your home or classroom.
It’s okay to be neurodiversity affirming while still providing boundaries for the safety of yourself, your children, and your students.