HELP!! My son is a nose picker! | Autism PDD
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HELP!! My son is a nose picker!

I know in the whole big picture, this is not that big of a deal, but it is disgusting!!  My son won't stop picking his nose.  Sometimes it is just the tip and other times very obvious.  He will even use his shirt collar as a tissue.  We have tried to keep him well supplied with tissues and always have one in his pocket.

It got worse last year, and the teacher made quite a big deal out of it and told him about the germs and wouldn't let him touch some of the classroom materials.  This seemed to make it worse, like if you told him "Don't pick your nose", he would just have to do it and can't stop the impulse.  I told the teacher to ignore as best as possible and provided wet wipes for him to be able to use the school computer, etc.  I thought it was getting better, but now that school has started, it is getting bad again.  The worse part is all of the school colds are starting, so a runny nose makes it even more yuck. 

Can anyone please tell me what the best way to deal with this.  Thanks!!

I have been just calmly telling him that if his nose itches he can rub it and if he has to pick, go to the bathroom. Making a big deal just makes him scruch up in shame, but doesn't stop the behavior (for him). Eventually it sinks in. He has gotten a lot better. One of the things that I always taught my "nose picker" students was to use
a tissue to pick their noses. This way, it was a slow fade out instead of
quitting cold turkey. If a kid has a tissue and their finger is in their nose, it's
still gross, but not AS gross, and it eventually turns into being able to
appropriately use the tissue. Maybe you can try and make sure he has tissue in his pocket.  It's probably just an impulse, like tapping your foot or biting your nails.  And as people will often say "just get up and get a tissue" is just not usually very realistic.  So if he has something in arms reach at all times hopefully he'd be more likely to use it.Try using a cotton swab to apply a bit of Vaseline inside the nose. I think
most picking is done because the nose is dry. I got this tip from my kids'
elementary school.I read once to have them wash their hands every time they do it, so eventually they get sick of having to wash their hands.

It's best to phrase things positively.  If you say "Don't pick your nose" the last part of the sentence has sort of a bigger echo in his head, and the don't part gets lost.

Like instead of saying "don't run", you say "please walk" and instead of saying "don't yell" you say "inside voice please".

I'm not sure how you can positively phrase don't pick your nose, maybe "hands in your pockets please"? and maybe have some stuff in his pockets to fiddle with, if the nose picking fulfills that function for him.


Thanks for the replies.  We do provide him with tissues (there is a box in every room and we always hand one to him), I haven't tried asking him to go to the bathroom yet to deal with his nose.  I think I'll try that at home, but I don't think it would work at school as he can literally pick his nose 45 minutes out of an hour. 

It's like an impulse for him, if you say to him "Don't pick your nose" he just has to pick it that second like he cannot help himself.  I sure hope we figure out a way to stop this.  He also will pick at his bottom lip till the skin is loose and starts to bleed everywhere.  He only does this about once or twice a week though.  Any other thoughts? 

Thanks for listening!

Here's a couple more nose-picking social stories, with illustrations. l

I'm encouraging my kids to head to the bathroom to take care of their nose.

It's also a good idea to give them something else to do with their hands so their hands aren't free to pick without even being aware of it.


this has nothing to do with autism it is gross lots of people do it the teacher shouldnt have made a big deal out of it .everrytime he dose it just ask if he needs a tiusse ,this is what i talk about in my speaking how everyone thinks ever singal thing we do is autism when some thing are just being huhuam an a kid or adult .it make you feel weird when your consrtly being watch an made to feel like every singel thing you do is wrong an needs a social storey or behavior plane .belive me there are plenty of nt i see in need of these to i think it disqusting when adults pick there nose an sometimes still eat it i want to throw up an they are typplical

Have you tried using a social story, such as the one below:


Picking my nose story



We all have a nose.




Sometimes I get a cold and my nose gets full of bogies.

This makes my nose feel funny and I don’t like it.




Sometimes I want to pick my nose and eat them so I can get rid of the bogies.

Adults and children think this is gross and they may say “yuck!”

I don’t want the adults and children to think I am gross. This will make me feel sad.




When I want to pick my nose I need to STOP, get some Tissue and BLOW my NOSE. Then I need to throw the tissue in the bin.




If I am still having problems and really, really need to pick my nose, I can go to the toilet where nobody can see me. I MUST wash my hands afterwards.





I like it when adults and children don’t think I am gross. It makes them happy when I don’t pick my nose. It makes me happy that I can remember to blow my nose instead. It will make my teacher VERY HAPPY.