Ask An Expert / Behavior Problems

My son can’t stop kicking the floor in class. Sensory strategies haven’t helped. What can we do?

Sensory issues aren't the only reason a child might be kicking the floor

Michael Rosenthal, PhD

My 8-year-old son is having problems with kicking his feet on the floor in his classroom. He has been removed from the classroom and given a weighted blanket and many other sensory items to try and distract him from kicking his feet. He says he just cannot stop. He is making himself tired and worn out from it, but still doesn't stop. What else can you suggest that we do in the classroom to help him?

Before I can suggest anything that you do in the classroom, there needs to be a more thorough assessment of what is driving your son’s behavior because there are many reasons why a child might be kicking his feet on the floor. He could be having a sensory issue, but there could also be other explanations, such as:

  • He is impulsive or hyperactive and has excess energy that he needs to get out
  • He could be frustrated, overwhelmed, or anxious about something
  • He could be seeking attention
  • There could be a medical reason we don’t know about

Because there are so many possibilities, you should work with the school to get a functional behavioral assessment (FBA). This is essentially collecting data on the context in which the kicking occurs in order to determine its purpose. For example, the time it occurs, what the antecedents to the behavior are, how long it lasts, and how people respond to it. Gathering more information will give you clues into what is driving his behavior and how to help. All school districts should have someone who is a behavioral specialist who is trained in doing functional behavior assessments.