Stimming is a self-stimulating behaviour that involves repetitive movements, sounds, or words. An example of stimming is when someone flaps their hands and arms repetitively. This is most often associated with an action that autistic children perform. This can sometimes be accompanied by a repetitive sound.
Hand flapping and clapping my be the most well known, but there are other ways that children with sensory processing disorder stim.
- They may bounce and jump about
- They may continually rearrange objects
- They may be repeating words and phrases
- They may bite their nails or pull their own hair
- They may be rubbing surfaces and stroking objects
While it may look and sound strange, there are many reasons why children with autism spectrum disorder stim.
- Stimming helps calm the person down. The repetitive behaviour distracts from their anxiety and acts as a soothing mechanism.
- Stimming allows the child to refocus their attention from the sensory overload that is often experienced by people with autism and sensory processing disorders.
- Stimming may also help shake off excessive energy.
While it is believed that stimming is necessary and positive for people with autism, certain behaviours can be quite dangerous to the person, such as when they start repetitively banging their heads against the wall. To help a child who is stimming, there are a few things you can do:
- Change the environment
In many cases, it is the environment that ends up overstimulating the child, which triggers the stimming behaviour. Changing the environment and moving them to a quiet and more peaceful location or room may allow them the space and time to calm down.
- Refocus attention
It may not always be possible to move the child to a new environment, so being able to provide the child with something else to focus on may help them. They may benefit from a variety of toys with different textures that help them to refocus their attention.
- Encourage physical activity
Keeping them active may be a good way to shift their attention away from the source of their anxiety and helps to reduce their excess energy.
It’s important to know that stimming is not only expressed by children with autism. Adults and people who are not autistic may also stim as a way to self regulate themselves as a reaction to certain stressful situations.
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