That Finger in the Nose

I don’t want to be graphic, but since one of the issues Robert (and I ) struggled frequently, was his reaction to sudden bouts of hay fever, I have to address that problem. This habit stigmatized Robert, diminished his social appeal, and reduced, more than anything else, the range of possible vocational opportunities.
When the allergic rhinitis attacks, Robert puts his fingers in the nostril trying to block the watery discharge. He can do that many times in a short period of time.
It would help if Robert could blow his nose. Unfortunately, my efforts to teach him that failed. He is pulling air into his nose instead of blowing it out. It would help if Robert kept using tissue consistently wiping his nose but he uses tissues not as often as his nose requires. It would help if Robert washed his hands immediately after he had used them to plug his nostrils, but he does it only when he is reminded by insistent observer.
Why doesn’t he get it?

1. I am the only one who tried to teach Robert blowing his nose. I was not very consistent mainly because I didn’t see a progress. I was not even able to teach Robert to blow clean air out of his nose. I know that this is a skill, that Robert could learn in his private school. That was one of the times, I regretted that I took him out from that school.
2. Only Robert’s teachers in the Collaborative program, he attended during one summer (extended year) noticed Robert’s habit and worked through a few weeks on eradicating it. They made gross pictures of a person (I think one of the teachers volunteered to be a negative model for this one.) picking his nose and the crowd of people being disgusted by it. The social story followed.
At the same time, I used a chapter from Taking care of Myself by Mary Wrobel dealing with the same issue. If neither Collaborative program nor I spent too much time on addressing this problem it was because with the disappearance of allergens, Robert stopped using his fingers to plug his nose and it is hard to work on reducing behavior which is no longer present. Still, during those first 3 weeks in a collaborative program, Robert clearly got an idea what was and what wasn’t appropriate behavior and he increased the first and reduced the second.
3. When Robert returned to his regular program in public school, I brought the issue into the open. Nonetheless, during two classroom observation I watched to my dismay that Robert kept plugging his running nose again and that neither his teacher nor his aide reacted. Again I talked about the need to address this issue with the school. A few months later I came again to observe Robert during a group instruction. There were three or four students in the whole classroom – three people were watching them – a teacher and two aides. Everybody was sitting at the large, round table. The students were learning and practicing appropriate behavior during job interviews. That called for, among other things, right kind of handshake. Not too strong, not too flimsy. Except, Robert was using his fingers to plug his runny nose. I saw it, other students had to see it and yet, the teacher asked one of them to practice handshake with Robert. The student extended his arm toward Robert. And it was then when I had to interfere. From my seat, I asked Robert to wash his hands.
I know, I was only the observer, and as such, I should wait with sharing my observations until the end of the session. I couldn’t.
There was a sink in the classroom, so Robert didn’t even have to leave the room.
I have learned recently that I was talked about as the kind of overbearing parents that expects impossible things from the teachers. Well, the one of the things I really expected from the teachers was to ask Robert to wash his hands every time (or almost every time) he touched the inside of his nose. I expected them to making clear that this behavior is not socially acceptable, that it might affect Robert’s health and the other students’ health.

As Robert began his two weeks vocational evaluation during the peak of the allergy season, the first thing that stigmatized him among a new group of his peers and alerted the job coach, was Robert plugging his nose.
Unfortunately for Robert, he didn’t present himself well to his coworkers.
Fortunately for Robert, his job coach had to immediately focus on this habit and consistently address it.

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