Record it

For people who perseverate i.e. repetitively ask the same thing or say the same thing over and over again, use a recordable device such as a key ring to record your answer, then they only have to press a button to hear you. See

Photographic evidence

When Kumar started to bite his hands I showed him a photo of when his hands were clear. It worked a treat, as he stopped biting.

Won't stop rocking

Lisa won't stop rocking which drives us barmy. We bought a rocking chair for the house and a swing for the garden. These both satisfy her sensory needs and make it more comfortable for us to cope with.

Only at home

Alex loves spinning, we have managed to control this by allowing him only to do it at home.

Substitute something appropriate

Albi loves to play with people’s hair. As an alternative I got him old curtain tassels which works nicely.


Beth has a need to play with Blutack from walls or pick chewing gum from under desks/floors. We started off by giving her a lump of Blutack, then managed to substitute it with a squeezy stress ball.

Who turned the taps on?

For people with a water obsession who like to turn taps on I put one of those sink strainers in all the sinks so at least the plugs can't get put in and water overflow (it slows water down a bit too!)

Learning tool

You can learn by special interests/obsessions e.g. teach how to count with Thomas the Tank Engine trains.

Beyond destruction

John is obsessed with books but due to his sensory problems bangs on them and destroys even board books. We have glued his favourite Thomas the Tank picture (front cover of old board book) to a placemat and he loves carrying it around and banging on it.

He needs it

I don’t suppress Steve’s obsession, flicking and chewing relaxes him and helps him to concentrate.

Within reason

We don’t always stop Lucy by insisting on her giving them up because it causes too much stress.

About the house

Charlie has a thing for lining up objects. We used this need to our benefit by getting him to help tidy around the house.

You can put it in your mouth

Olly puts inedible objects in his mouth all the time. We gave him a bum bag full of edible alternatives (that provide similar sensory experiences) such as raw pasta or seeds and nut.

Make it useful

Abby loves to mess about in the dustbins. Rather than stop the behaviour, we give her the regular job of sorting the rubbish for recycling (bottles/paper/plastic) and ensuring rubbish is put in the appropriate bins. We try to make a regular time every day for her to do this. Wearing washing up gloves and washing her hands afterwards are part of the routine (she drew smiley faces on the gloves!)

Make them work for you

Use the obsessions as a reward - whether it is a 100th set of Thomas The Tank Engine or the 100th Barbie if they will get dressed for them or with them or if it will help you and them to achieve something, use it in your favour.

Time limits

We found that setting time limits work. We didn’t want to stop Toby from writing and rewriting numbers so we let him do it for 15 minutes. We always tell him when he starts how long he can do it for and what he will be doing after.

Reel it in

For people in wheelchairs who like throwing things but are unable to pick them back up without assistance: attach a long stretchy spiral key ring (or several) to the back of the chair and put a ball/sensory item/small cushion/strings of beads on the other end. They can throw the item and then 'reel' it back in. You can change the item each day so it is more interesting.

Bouncing on beds

One of the young people I care for likes to bounce on her bed all the time and has broken many beds. We got her a memory foam mattress and now she has stopped bouncing on her bed, and accepts bouncing needs to be done elsewhere. She is sleeping really well too.

Fiddle toys

Use fiddle toys to distract from repetitive or self-injurious behaviour. We've found sensory toys, heat beads, vibrating toys and even a Rubik’s cube all help to keep his hands busy from flicking and poking.

Home-made splints

I made a simple splint for a child I used to work with who used to eye-poke. Used the cardboard tube from a toilet roll, cut it open and then covered it with lots of layers of soft felt, then attached it to his arm with Velcro so he couldn't bend his arm. This worked for us.

Peeling paint

My son is obsessed with peeling paint from walls! I cover an old tray with glue/paint and give it to him to peel when he gets the urge to peel!

Ripping success

I work with somebody who is obsessed with ripping her clothes. Now when someone sees her trying to do this, she is directed to a 'box' we've purchased. This box is full of different types of fabric and she's allowed to either cut them or just play with them.

Kiss away

Ash was biting his hands till they bled, so whenever we'd see him do it we'd quickly kiss his hands all over in a fun way. He found this enjoyable and started doing it himself. Now his biting has turned to sucking! Much better :)

Why I need to rock

This is a really useful video explaining poor sensory processing – in other words why some people need to tap, rock etc. 

Head banging

I stop my son from head banging by gently cupping the back of his head and firmly telling him to stop.

Channel obsessions

Channel obsessions into something useful and positive and use to your advantage. If ripping paper is an issue, divert that interest into making collages. Or give them papers you intend to shred!

Feathers do the trick

J has a thing for hair and would drive us barmy messing and twiddling his own or worse other people’s. He's been a lot better since we gave him a bag of feathers that he keeps in his pocket to fiddle with.

Explore alternatives

Try replacing repetitive behaviour with another activity that has the same function. For example, if your child flicks their fingers for visual stimulation, try giving them a kaleidoscope or a bubble gun.

Share your tips and feedback

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Using these tips

These tips have been contributed by members of our online community. We hope they will give you some ideas to try, but if you need further help why not post a question to the community or talk to one of our community advisors. If you have any concerns about your health or the wellbeing of someone you are caring for, please consult a doctor or qualified professional.

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