Sometimes Sissy gets strange looks and stares from strangers as she is humming loudly, jumping, or spinning in a circle over and over again. Personally, I could care less what others think…right now. She’s five and it’s easier to accept for such a young child to frolic about in a public place. A lady once politely asked me “why does she act that way?” And I told her “she is stimming.”
What is stimming? Stimming is short for self-stimulatory behavior.When a person is stimming, they are engaging in a set of repetitive movements or sounds. Have you ever bounced your leg, bit your nails, paced, or fidgeted when nervous? We all stim, but people with autism differ in the frequency, type, and necessity of their stims.
Why do people with autism stim? Stimming is a way to decrease or increase stimulation, self-regulate emotions, and express oneself. Many with autism explain that stimming makes them feel good and can even help them focus. Like crying when you are sad, stimming is a way for the body to cope with something in their environment that is troubling them.
What does stimming look like? Common stimming includes hand flapping, rocking, spinning, humming, jumping, and mimicking noises. Some view stimming as socially unacceptable. A person flapping their hands in public may seem strange and it may make others around them feel uncomfortable. That’s why some parents attempt to stop a child from stimming in hopes of making them fit in and appear more normal. However, it can be very harmful to stop a child from stimming. Autistic children will resort to self-harming stims leading to meltdowns or injuries when the non-harmful stims are suppressed for too long. That is why many experts strongly advise against parents stopping their children from stimming.