Tearing paper & other distractions


Here we go again!
Some of you have noted in another thread that you have experience with your difficult child's tearing paper during class. Here I thought my difficult child 2 was the only kid who ever did this! What a relief :smile:

He was really starting to become compulsive with it, creating animals out of torn scraps of paper during his free time. At one point, he was instructing a group of kids at free time on how to do this newfound art form. His teacher has been puzzled by all this. I just saw it as a repeat of first grade when his behavior was spiraling out of control and he ended up on Risperdal. There was a lot of paper tearing in kindergarten, but his teacher was very understanding.

I wonder about it being a manifestation of anxiety, the way some of you have described. If this is the case, how is it best addressed?

Shortly after these paper animal sessions were starting to peak in intensity, he was switched to Abilify and has titrated up to 20mg. The paperfolding/tearing has subsided a bit, but has not disappeared completely. His emotional outbursts have improved also. And he falls asleep better at night and wakes up easier. All good in my view.

Just wish we could get a few more hours out of the Focalin XR. When it wears off at the end of the school day, he's back to his challenging behaviors: very loud, very messy (I can check off most of the items on the Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) list for hypo-responsive kids), regressive language (potty talk), lots of gross motor/large muscle group movement, handles his genitals more, craves carbs and sweets, very goofy, does careless and sometimes dangerous things (mindlessly swinging a baseball bat or large stick a bit too close to someone else), hyper-focused on video games or television, annoying to just about everyone around him. Reminds me of someone who's drunk. Thank goodness we have the regular Focalin to buy him a couple hours of focus to get through homework!

Do any of your difficult child's sound like mine when unmedicated? Does it ever get better as they get older? Some days I just feel like screaming at him. Some days I've felt like sending him somewhere else to live. He was my easiest baby, and now he's my biggest behavioral challenge.


Active Member
What do you mean, "when unmedicated"? How about ALL the time?

It's an interesting hobby he's got, though. Can you find ways to channel it, rather than cut it off? If he can develop this 'skill' to genuine creative levels, it's a good thing. He sounds a bit like easy child 2/difficult child 2 in this - she's always been exceptionally good with her hands, doing fine detail. Her drawings were always very intricately detailed and she is always doing things with her hands, like 'knitting' chain mail (with fencing wire), tearing lolly wrappers into the longest strip of paper ever, origami, balloon sculpture - she does it. Currently she's bought the book of "Discworld - Build your own Unseen University" and is intricately creating the buildings in this fictional fantasy series. Basically, by encouraging her to do more she's made it productive. She even earns money with her balloon sculpture - school fairs, that sort of thing.

I saw an interesting craft project once - you tear brightly-coloured tissue paper into poppy petal shapes then stick them down in a tray (or on an artist's canvas) then paint on leaves and stems. The tray version - once you had the petals in place and the leaves/stems painted, you coat it all with varnish and turn it into a dinner tray.

Just a thought... if we can't change them, we try and make a buck out of it!

You can't stop him. Don't try. Enjoy him (not easy sometimes). I had a nephew who would tie everything up with string - like a version of Christo. Hey, maybe we know what is wrong with Christo...



New Member
Your difficult child sounds like my easy child in alot of ways. I was the one mentioning this week that he was tearing up pieces of paper in class.

I love Abilify, difficult child 1 (Dylan) is on it. You're right, helps him sleep, calms him down, it's great LOL! My saviour :smile:

Ok, ADHD. Yes, my easy child is ADHD, Combined Type. He does alot of things your difficult child seems to do. He is careless. He is goofy. He's the class clown, although the authority figures don't find him funny (but the kids do, which is part of the problem). He's always trying to make jokes, mimic someone (usually a teacher, again, maybe why she finds no humor in him), or just be well, impulsivly out of control.

I wish he could learn when it's okay to be a goofball and try to amuse someone and when it's not. He can't understand when it's appropriate. With my easy child, alot (and I say the majority) of his problems/goofiness are attention seeking. It's evident. He'll start out being goofy around someone, and they'll laugh at him, and he gets louder. Dumber. Goofier. And then before you know it, he's totally out of control, and I have to grab him. I can see him being exactly this way at school. Yeah, kinda like a drunk LOL. Not a very good term to use to describe, but you're right.

The tearing papers, I do not think MY child has an anxiety problem, but I suppose some kids could. I think alot of things get blamed on anxiety, too much in my opinion, that aren't anxiety. easy child doesn't tear papers to make designs (how creative of your difficult child!) and such, I think he just finds a piece laying around, and plays with it as the teacher is doing her thing. I think he's more doing it because he doesn't want to pay attention to what she's teaching (which is a huge problem, too!). Playing with pencils, tapping feet, talking to himself, all these things, I hear about on a daily basis. It's frustrating.

He will not go on an antipsychotic (Abilify, Risperdal, etc), but we are trialing stimulants (I will not put him on an antipsychotic because he has heart problems and I just don't want to, not because of any other reason). He started out at 18 mg. of Concerta, the lowest dose, and WOW, in hours, what a difference. Calmed him down, he was being so good, better behaviors, etc. He was on this for a couple of weeks, and the teacher (it's always the teacher) started whining again. "Okay day, but....." always a but. in my humble opinion, I think part of the problem is the teacher (but we can save that for another day). So, we increased him to 27 mg. Concerta. Well, then he was zombified. His eyes were glassy. The teacher loved it, because he was comatose. Well, lovely, but I'm not having my kid like that!

We changed to Adderall, only 5 mg, baby dose, saw nothing. I gave him 10 mg. on a Sat to see if it'd do anything, nothing really. However, he's starting to get mouthy. Little aggressive. This is why my easy child is a easy child and not a difficult child. Yeah, he's hyper, and impulsive and loud, but he's not bad. Well, the Adderall, I just wasn't liking it.

So, now he's back on the 18 mg. Concerta. I like it. The babysitter likes it. His therapist thinks he's great, she sees no ADHD signs in him in the hour he's with her. Yeah, the teacher complains, but you know what? I don't give a rats behind. She only has to deal with it another 5 months and he's out of there.

My easy child tears papers and plays with pencils and things like that, I believe, because he has a hard time with focus and attention. I don't think I need to try to pick apart every piece of his brain to find more reasons why. Anxiety, depression, etc etc, maybe he just has a hard time with focus? Maybe that's what is wrong with your difficult child?

I was saying that I thought maybe my easy child needs to be TAUGHT how to pay attention and focus, because he never really has. In conjunction with the medications, that is. Maybe he'll out grow it? I know alot of parents here say their kids do. We can only hope!



Here we go again!
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: tiredmommy</div><div class="ubbcode-body">It could also be sensory seeking behavior. </div></div>

That's kinda what I feel in my gut -- more so than the anxiety because of how he was when he was younger and I had him in PT because of more obvious drives to get that kind of sensory input: standing on his head, hanging on things, climbing, basically anything that gave him deep pressure on his large joints.

He's always been like that and maybe it's just something we need to try to work with instead of "correct". His dad's the same way. When his old medications were working, we didn't see the behaviors quite as much.

I even bought him a weighted blanket because he was never happy with the FIVE heavy blankets and four pillows on his bed each night. :smile: The new blanket helps a bit.

And maybe he's not really a difficult child -- just a easy child with more extreme ADHD issues? It's confusing sometimes.


Here we go again!
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Janna</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Your difficult child sounds like my easy child in alot of ways. </div></div>

What determines a difficult child vs. easy child with-not-quite-straightforward ADHD?


New Member
Hi! He actually sounds a bit like my 11 yr. old too. Does he attend better when he is able to tear the paper? That's what I was trying to say in Janna's post. I wasn't saying it was anxiety based for my son (although, others did as I recall) but rather, he needed to busy one part of his brain so that his other part could attend. And that brain information was important because without I wouldn't have been able to help with the squishy ball (which does help a lot).

If a child is doing something like tapping a pencil, tearing paper, tapping his foot or talking to himself while the teacher is talking or teaching (which my son did all of that at one time or another) then it's probably not due to motivation (as in a lack of motivation or just boredom) or else motivators (rewards and punishments) would help or solve the problem. No amount of motivators helped my son because it wasn't motivational, it was due to his inability to concentrate unless he was doing something else too and sensory issues.

My son has some sensory issues. We started Occupational Therapist (OT) at about 18 months old. We've got some of the weighted things too and used a tent for a bit as a relaxation station (a safe place to go to when over stimulated or as he got older when he started having the warning signs of over stimulation). Time outs never helped him because he got too caught up in the punishment aspects of it as opposed to learning how to calm his body (which was what I wanted him to learn...what actually to do to help himself).

Good luck! It's difficult. Take anything that helps and feel free to leave the rest.


Well-Known Member
My difficult child does much better when she can listen to music while she learns. I know, that doesn't go over real well! LOL! She is allowed in study hall to listen with headphones and it is her most productive time.

Just wanted to you let you know that it could for sure be something that distracts his mind while he works. Mine is just another example.