The word “stimming” refers to any behavior that is done as a way to self-soothe or stimulate an individual. It can be a vocal sound or movement that is repeated over and over. Read why it happens, how to recognize it and how to manage it!
Stimming is part of the diagnostic criteria for a child who is being diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum disorder.
Stimming isn’t necessarily a bad thing or something that needs to be stifled, but it should be addressed if the behavior is disruptive or interferes with quality of life.
I grew up with a young man who was diagnosed with Tourette’s. He was mainstreamed with us all the way through high school. His behaviors were not noticeable, until he became upset or worried. The behaviors would include smacking his head and verbally yelling out loud. The things he would say included curse words or vulgar comments, which was distracting to all of the other students attempting to learn. He was assigned a one-to-one aide who would do her best to decrease the stimming behavior in order to decrease the distraction and disruption to the classroom.
Common stimming behaviors include:
In a person with autism, stimming might involve:
A child with autism may spend hours on end arranging toys instead of playing with them. Repetitive behavior may also involve obsessions or preoccupations with certain objects or the reciting of intricate details of a particular subject matter. There are also other stimming behaviors that can cause physical harm. These might include:
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It’s not always easy to determine why stimming behaviors occur. In general, it’s a coping mechanism that people use to deal with a feeling or emotion. For example, you may crack your knuckles when you are nervous or may spin a key chain around when you’re stressed. A person diagnosed with Autism may stim in order to:
A behavior therapist or someone who specializes in autism can help you to decode your child’s stimming behavior and give you alternative activities for them to do that are not as repetitive or distracting. Remember – stimming doesn’t need to be controlled unless it:
When children are hypersensitive, or overly sensitive to stimuli they possibly may engage in stimming because they want to reduce stimulation, because they perceive their environments and surroundings to be too loud, bright or too much to handle. When children are hyposensitive, or under-responsive to stimuli they have the opposite effects and stimming may actually increase arousal. You may notice they are engaging in self-stimulatory behaviors that are providing them with sensory excitement. You may notice flapping their arms, spinning, licking and sucking on toys.
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