Why autistic people stim?

Stimming (or self-stimulation behavior) is the repetitive body movement, verbal statement or feeling of a texture. The thing is, everyone stims. The question remains why do autistic people stim, why does everyone stim, and what exactly does stimming look like?

What is stimming?

You might remember that time you were nervous and bit your lip, or the time you tapped your pencil on the table anxious to answer a test question. Those are but two examples of how a neurotypical stims.

Stimming can look quite different in an autistic person. An autistic person might flap their arms, rub objects, repetitively move their fingers in front of their eyes, squeeze their hands over their ears, or watch wheels go back and forth. Others might rock their bodies, lick objects, smell themselves or others. The list goes on and on. Check the **** Yeah, Stimming! for a comprehensive list of various stims.

Happy autistic people stim

Stimming because your happy. Happy flapping from the wonderful Amythest (neurodiversity blogger)

Why do autistic people stim?

Autistic people stim for various reasons but the central theme remains the same. As Temple Grandin so eloquently put it:

Stimming behaviors self-soothe and helps to regain emotional balance. – Temple Grandin

We also asked several other autistic people about stimming.

Why do you stim?

  • It relieves anxiety
  • It releases energy
  • Helps reduce sensory overstimulation
  • Helps me focus
  • Helps me relax (like clear-mind meditation)

When do you stim?

  • I have overwhelming emotions
  • I’m nervous
  • I’m overtaxed
  • I’m thinking really hard
  • I’m bored

How should we deal with stimming?

One issue is that a few professionals believe stimming is a deviant behavior. This has come out by the classical view in applied behavioral analysis that began to extinguish all “non-typical” behaviors in autistic people. Though you can use applied behavioural analysis to extinguish any behavior. A good behaviorist has many responsibilities the key one is knowing what behavior to extinguish and which to reinforce.

After reading the list of reasons why autistic people stim, I will leave you to decide whether you think it is useful or not.

Does stimming have a negative impact on learning?

Again, after reading the list. Do you think it can help, or does it negatively impact learning?

There are limits however. If a child stims for 12 hours a day, the child’s stimming might have a negative effect on learning. The issue isn’t with the stimming but with not taking the time learning new skills.

For the same reason, you wouldn’t want a child play video-games for 12 hours since that might have a negative impact on their education. Should you then never allow a child to play video-games? In my opinion, no.

An autistic child should not be allowed to stim all day but at the very least be provided with some time to do so.  Autistic children should be allowed to stim to relieve their anxieties, reduce their energy, control overstimulation and regain emotional balance.

Won’t stimming disturb others in a classroom?

This is another common concern. Just like a child playing on their phones in class, it could disturb others. The issue isn’t the stimming itself but whether the stimming actually does disturb the class. Perhaps, the child can be guided to stim in such a way not to disturb others.

If the child squeezing, perhaps the child should be giving a squishy ball to play around during the class or an object in the desk to rub. In this way, it is minimal and does not disturb others.

Won’t stimming socially isolate the autistic person?

Another concern is whether stimming is a behavior that is socially isolating. Won’t others steer away from a stimming child. Maybe. Other children might not engage a child who is stimming because it seems strange to them. Again, the issue isn’t about the stimming itself — everyone stims. The issue is about educating children about neurodiversity, about difference and acceptance. People who were gay were once heavily discriminated against, while it is becoming trendier and trendier to have gay people on TV.

I commend sesame street for including an autistic character to educate children about difference. Well done.


So what do you think…

To stim or not to stim? That is the question.

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The Industry of “Curing” Autism, ADHD and Learning Disability

The Super Brief History of Neurodiverse People

The number of neurodiverse people that have been living on our planet unbeknownst to society is astonishing. Throughout Human history, many neurodiverse people were widely misunderstood by society. Many were institutionalized or imprisoned in some form, while the remaining were regarded as nothing short of a genius. Today we attempt to “cure” them.

autism, adhd, learning disability, be differentRecently, there has been an increase in diagnosing as many neurodiverse people as humanly possible. Some schools even provide treatments and accommodations in efforts to even the playing field between the neurodiverse and the neurotypical.

A bunch of treatments and accommodations have enabled the neurodiverse in several ways. ADHD  has become the most treatable disorder in Psychiatry due to medicinal advances. Dyslexics can read without the need to decode as many words by using assistive technologies. Dyscalculics can use calculators. And we are all provided with quiet rooms and computers to transfer our personal meaning system into the words we share. Then there are unfavorable treatments that force the neurodiverse people to behave in ways that are against their nature. They are trained to fake the neurotypical’s social behaviours, preferences and mannerisms in order to be accepted in a society that is slow to accept differences. And that’s alarming.

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Inattentive Minds in Music Class – An ADD Story

In the head of an Inattentive ADHD Mind

As an ADD-er I had a classic mind-wandering school experience. Teachers were not fond, but I can confidently say that I tormented all the teachers who tormented me. I did not have the best confidence but when it came to teachers, I stood for myself. So why  ADHD children get into trouble in class.

adhd, autism, dyslexia, put in the hall, spending time in the hall, school, punishment, hallway punishment, time-out, timeout

Closeup portrait of naughty boy sticking out his tongue with girl in background

I do remember a story that gets tossed around at family gatherings as a funny reminder of my troubles in school. I had made the grade 1 music teacher cry during a parent-teacher interview as she described me in class (Yes, I was about 6 years old). It was a whimsical anecdote because my parents had always said I was perfectly behaved at home and in other social settings. Yet my music teacher was not the only teacher who talked about me in a negative light. All I truly remember — aside  from being in the hall of course — was this one event.

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