As defined on wiki stimming is: “Self-stimulatory behaviour, also known as stimming and self-stimulation, is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders.”
Stimming is something that a lot of Autistic people do. But this behaviour isn’t exclusively so. Many people with ADHD and even Neuro-typical people (those without Autism) also “stim.” Stimming for me and many others is a comfort and a way to cope with things around us. It often involves our senses and it usually done in a way to help us relax and can be a form of communicating our comfort or discomfort levels. Personally for me, I like to wear quite heavy bracelets on my wrist that I can spin and turn around as a stim. I also have a ring that I spin on my finger that is often used when I am nervous. When these items aren’t available I usually do things like pull at my hair that is usually in a side plait (braid) on my shoulder and this give me comfort. I also tend to shake my feet, flick my nails, bounce my legs to name just a few.
My opinion on stimming, whether it is myself or my boys, both of which stim in various ways themselves, such as using chewelry to bite on, spinning, rocking, thumb sucking, feeling different textures over and over again, it is a good thing. It is no different to nail biting that some people do or girls who suck their thumbs and rub their noses when they are tried. They do those things as a comfort; some things can be habits but most are as a way to make them comfortable.
I am aware that in the US, ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) is used to try and “correct” the behaviour of Autistic children to fit in with a more socially acceptable behaviour. This in turn stops their stimming or replaces a stim/behaviour that parents or practitioners feels would be more acceptable. My personal view is that ABA is wrong, but I can understand that parents feel a “need” to try to correct this. I think the need is driven by a need to “cure” Autism and believe me that is a whole other blog for me.
Stims very rarely, if ever harm or cause injury to others. Stims are a form of coping mechanism for a child or adult. Some people drink, some people smoke when stressed, we stim. Why would any parent want to systematically change their child in that way? Perhaps I am looking at it from a different point of view but my behaviours tell those around me, maybe when I am not telling them myself, that I feel uncomfortable or I am stressed and not coping well. When I stim I am trying to regulate my feelings and this helps me achieve that goal. There are many forms of stimming and most Autistics will have a stim or stims that works well for them. Perhaps they did it from a young child, but it works and that in my book can never be a bad thing.
Whether rocking upside down, making noises with their mouths, chewing or biting objects, twirling or whatever, stimming is needed by Autistics to help them/us through, what can at times be very hostile and difficult situations.
I will write in more detail again about stimming but I think this is a good starting point.