Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Trying To Stop a Toddler From Biting Without Biting Back

One of the coolest things about Joey is all of the amazing people we meet because of him.  Right now we are operating with the A-Team of all therapy teams.  We visit Miss Jane for Physical Therapy.  This is her and Joey trying to figure out the creepy crawler, stander, treadmill and gait trainer.

We visit Mr. Rob for Occupational Therapy where we work on everything from crawling, standing, grasping to cranial massage. Mr. Rob is helping me learn how to use massage to try and help Joey with Neuro-Developmental Treatment.  

We also visit Miss Donna who works tirelessly with Joey to help develop his Speech and Language by using sign language, visual illustrations and verbal language.  Last week we talked about our new biting issues and how to handle them.  Joey has started biting me and Tommy (the two people he spends the most time with-- somehow Dad never gets bitten--he says it's because he gets out of the way and I call baloney on that one--I'm sticking with my time spent with Joey ratio reasoning). 

The tough part is he is still getting in molars and uses his mouth to explore almost everything.  Additionally, he also is starting to get frustrated at not being able to express himself, so I truly deep down understand why he is biting, but I also want to help him stop so he can start pre-school in the fall and make friends, not eat friends.

Here is our five-step approach to help Joey to stop biting.  After Joey bites or starts to try to bite:

1.  Set him down immediately.
2.  Say "Stop biting, Joey."
3.  Sign: Stop!  Sign: Biting!
4.  Hand Joey one of our super cool "Stop biting" illustrations.
5.  Hand Joey something he is allowed to chew on (Sophie the giraffe or other teething toys).

Here are the ASL signs for "stop" and "bite."

American Sign Language: "stop"

The sign for "stop" is made by extending your left hand, palm upward. Sharply bring your open right hand down to your left palm at a right angle.


Note: If what you mean to say is, "Stop it!" as in "Cut it out!" or "Knock it off!" see the one-handed version of "FINISH"


The right hand represents a mouth and teeth.  The left hand gets bitten.


Here are the super cool cards (before we cut them out) that Miss Donna made us:

I read some very interesting ideas on how to stop a child from biting.  Some suggestions included isolation, which we have incorporated to the extent that we are trying to remove Joey from the situation and re-direct, but we don't believe in true "isolation."  Other suggestions included yelling very loudly to scare the child.  Then there was the suggestion of biting him back.  As tempted as I am to scream (I did yell once in pain and he started to cry and then we were both crying) or to bite him back, we are trying a method to really teach him to stop biting. 

So far no broken skin this week, but I'm pretty sure those may be famous last words.  

In the meantime, many thanks to our A-Team of therapists.   You are each incredible in your own way and we so appreciate your time, effort, dedication, compassion, empathy and professionalism.

Happy Tuesday!  What are you working on this week? 


  1. My 4 year old (without ds) used to bite. But his was solely an anger issue and not an input issue. We did eventually bite him back, and that was the only thing that taught him how bad it was. I think the idea of giving something to bute on is a good idea.

  2. Like I mentioned in my other comment, we are still struggling with this too. I know a lot of Claire's biting is communication related, but some of it just seems to be lack of impulse control. Let me know if you think the picture cards are working!

    1. It seems like the whole "process" is what it takes with Joey-- we sign stop (which he is now signing stop! Yay!!)- then I set him down and hand him a card-- then he tries to eat the card. :-) I do think the illustration helps-- hard to tell which part of it is working. Also-I removed the word verification-- that thing is so annoying! Thank you for telling me. :-) Good luck with Claire's biting-- if you have any good tips-- please share!


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