What is “Stimming”

What Should You Know about Stimming and How to Manage It?

Stimming or self-stimulatory behavior in an autistic person generally refers to certain behaviors like rocking, hand-flapping, repeating phrases and words, or spinning. Stimming is a pretty common symptom of autism and is the most obvious one. Although one can argue that almost everyone stims in one way or another still flicking the fingers, flapping, rocking are not things that one does, regularly.

Autistic stimming, even if looks a bit unusual, subtle ways of stimming are a common part of human behavior patterns. I mean, who among us hasn’t tapped our toes, bitten our nails, or kept tapping our pencil constantly? So, all of us have engaged in stimming, but one of the most prominent differences between typical and autistic stimming is the quantity, obviousness, and the type of behavior. That being said, do you want to know a bit more about stimming? Well, then keep reading.

Why Do Autistic People Stim?

There is no particular reason as to why people with autism stim. It can be considered as a coping mechanism that serves multiple purposes. For instance, an individual with autism might be trying to:

  • Adapt to an unfamiliar or new environment
  • Try to calm themselves and reduce anxiety
  • Express themselves and their frustration in case they are unable to communicate effectively
  • Feeling overwhelmed or underwhelmed and trying to decrease or stimulate their senses
  • Avoid certain expectations or activities

In case, previous episodes of stimming have resulted because of wanting attention, the person might start stimming regularly to get attention continuously. Stimming can also be a way to ease any physical discomfort or pain. It is also important that you should determine if the stimming is involuntary, and because of some medical conditions like seizures.

Common Stimming Behaviors in an Autistic Person

Common types of stimming behavior in an autistic person might include:

  • Flicking or flapping hands
  • Twirling, jumping or bouncing
  • Walking or pacing continuously
  • Snapping fingers
  • Rocking
  • Repeating phrases or words
  • Blinking repetitively
  • Staring at ceiling fan or lights
  • Pulling hair
  • Stroking, rubbing or licking some particular objects
  • Sniffing and rearranging objects
  • Sniffing people

An autistic child will spend hours arranging toys instead of spending time playing. Repetitive behaviors can also at times include preoccupations or obsessions with some particular objects. Other repetitive behaviors can even cause physical damage. Some of these behaviors are

  • Biting or punching
  • Headbanging
  • Picking at sores or scabs
  • Excessive scratching or rubbing of skin
  • Swallowing dangerous objects

Managing Stimming

Stimming is easier to manage once you have figured out why it’s happening. Once an autism specialist has figured out the cause, they can suggest ways to manage this behavior. Which includes:

  • In case of unsafe behavior intervene
  • Advise friends and family members on how to help
  • Understand when to refrain from responding
  • Creating a healthy and safe environment
  • Trying alternate activities which will provide the calming effect
  • Teaching kids, self-management tools
  • Consulting educators and occupational therapists
  • Opting for medical help if required

Stimming behaviors tend to come and go from time to time, depending on the circumstances. Generally, with children maturing, it gets better, but in some cases, it might get worse with time. Understanding and patience are required, and managing stimming is possible. And, with time, achieving self-control will help improve life in school and at work, also, in social situations.

 

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