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What Does Stim Mean In Autism

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What Is Autistic Stimming? We try to understand it first hand.

All autistic people are individuals that experience life differently. I don’t necessarily think ‘i need to stim,’ i just do. rachel mills Oftentimes, stimming meets an important sensory need for an autistic person. When it does become harmful, however, that’s when parents, caregivers, and support professionals may wonder as to what they can do to stop the stimming activity. Hand flapping or, arm flapping, has become one of the more popularly recognized signs of autism. My son’s neurologist calls it autistic stereopathy. it is also sometimes called stereotypy. A person who stims shows repetitive body movements that can involve all five senses or moving objects in a repetitive motion. It’s common when kids are excited, nervous, anxious, or having any other type of high emotion state. Stimming is comforting, and it lets off pressure from good and bad emotions. Think of it like gently shaking s. They have also spoken out about the importance of their ‘stims.’ It means i trust you. If stimming affects children in negative ways, you can look at ways to reduce their need to stim.

Why Does Vocal Stimming Happen

Self stimulatory repetitive behaviors and movements can provide sensory input for children with ASD, helping them cope with anything stressful in their environment, or helping them to focus or express their feelings. It can be calming because it is a predictable behavior they control. In a crowded restaurant, a child with ASD might feel overwhelmed by the noise, and stimming would help them to ignore the loud sounds. Dr. Mary Barbera, a board certified behavior analyst, equates stimming to the activities we might do in our leisure time, such as playing an instrument or a sport.

Common Ways People With Asd Engage In Self

Stimming was the most outwardly obvious sign of ASD in Carols case, and was the very thing that prompted her to get a diagnosis, and the treatment she needed.

Stimming is a hallmark sign of ASD. Actions such as head banging, sitting on the ground and twirling over and over, or hand-flapping are classic forms of stimming, but there are many expressions like Carols, that are a bit more subtle.

  • Looking out of the corner of your eyes
  • Flipping lights on and off repeatedly
  • Random humming, shrieking, or making other noises
  • Finger snapping, tapping or putting your hands over your ears.
  • Tapping on ears or objects
  • Covering and uncovering ears
  • Repeating words or phrases including lines from a TV show, songs, or any other kind of repetitive verbalization
  • Scratching or rubbing your skin in a repetitive manner.
  • Any kind repetitive movement: spinning, pacing, twirling
  • Tasting or licking including thumb sucking, finger sucking, or tasting something one wouldnt normally taste
  • Unusual or inappropriate smelling or sniffing

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Why Do Autistics Stim

Simply put, autistics stim to meet a need.

Our bodies and brains need to stim, and it can sometimes even be painful if we try to prevent or avoid our stims.

In some ways, its like an itch. Our brains and bodies can obsess about it until we are able to satisfy the need.

Stimming can also offer us a specific type of sensory input that essentially drowns out other sensory input that we have less control over.

For example, many autistics hum as a stim which helps drown out the random noises happening around them that may otherwise cause sensory overwhelm.

Its so important to understand that stims arent just a habit that autistics have, but an absolutely vital part of the way our brains and bodies self-regulate.

So understanding and encouraging your child to use their stims to meet their individual needs will help them to confidently be who they are and it will help them stay more regulated to help avoid autistic burnout or autism meltdowns!

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What Is Stimming In Toddlers

autism and stimming

Stimming is the short version of self-stimulation or self-stimulatory behavior. It is a self-soothing mechanism characterized by the repetition of movements, words, or sounds. As it is commonly found among children diagnosed with autism, some professionals refer to the behavior as autistic stereopathy or stereotypy.

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Why Autistic Children And Teenagers Stim

Stimming seems to help autistic children and teenagers manage emotions like anxiety, anger, fear and excitement. For example, stimming might help them to calm down because it focuses their attention on the stim or produces a calming change in their bodies.

Stimming might also help children manage overwhelming sensory information. For autistic children who are oversensitive to sensory information, stimming can reduce sensory overload because it focuses their attention on just one thing. For autistic children who are undersensitive, stimming can stimulate underactive senses.

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Impact Of Stimming On Your Health

Many parents ask how they can help their children to stop stimming behaviors in an effort to help them blend in with their peers. But stimming is very normal, if not widely accepted socially. Instead of asking how to stop the behavior, try asking why your child is engaging in stimming.

Common reasons for people to stim include:

Overstimulation. Stimming helps block out too much sensory input from overstimulation. An example of stemming action is making a âbrrrâ sound with your lips in a place that is too loud.

Understimulation. If a place doesnât have enough sensory input â things to hear or look at â or if you are bored, stimming provides additional sensory input. An example of this type of stimming is clucking in a room that is too quiet.â

Pain reduction. If you fall or bump your arm, your reaction might be to hurt yourself in some other way to take away from that pain. Many children bang their head or body to reduce other sensations of pain. Even though it seems counterproductive, medical professionals believe that this type of stimming may release beta-endorphins that decrease the sensation of pain or provide a sensation of pleasure.

âManagement of emotions. If you suddenly feel happy or sad, it may trigger you to stim. You may flap your hands when youâre happy or begin to bite your nails when youâre upset.

Why Do I Keep Rocking My Head Back And Forth

What is an Autistic Stim? AUTISM AND STIMMING

From foot bouncing to finger strumming to twirling strands of hair, they help us pass the time, enjoy a moment, or deal with momentary stress or anxiety. But the sudden onset of rocking back and forth, almost like a metronome, is reserved for extremely stressful situationswhen terrible news has been received or a horrific event has been witnessed.

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Hand Flapping: Should I Be Worried Does It Only Happen With Autism

As a parent, you have an Eagle eye for any new behavior that your child starts doing. If that behavior is hand flapping, youve come to the right place.

Hand flapping is a form of stimming that kids do to calm down, self-soothe, or regulate their bodies. Its common when kids are excited, nervous, anxious, or having any other type of high emotion state. It can also become a habit.

Hand flapping or, arm flapping, has become one of the more popularly recognized signs of autism. As with any concept that becomes well known, we have to deal with both the positives and negatives of it.

We also have to deal with the confusion.

In one sense, its great that the potential signs of autism are becoming more widely known.

Three cheers for autism awareness!

In another sense, assuming that hand flapping=autism is too simplistic and ignores the nuances behind the behavior. In all the confusion, the #1 question becomes when should I worry?

So, youre a parent of a child and you see them starting to flap their hands. Given everything youve heard about hand flapping from the media and greater society, you start to panic.

What does this mean?

Lets dig in to what hand flapping is and whether your should be worried.

As we move forward, please keep in mind that this is general information and is not specific to your own kiddo. If you have any concerns or questions about your childs unique situation, please reach out to their pediatrician or occupational therapist.

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What Is Harmful Stimming

Stims that are uncontrollable, occur excessively in inappropriate settings, or prevent a child from socially acceptable interaction, may need to be addressed. Far more serious are unhealthy stims like self-injurious behaviors. These can include hair pulling, biting, hitting oneself, hitting the head against something in a harmful way, or picking/nail biting to the point of injury. Why would a person engage in self injuring stimulation? Possibly because their overload or source of anxiety is so overwhelming, it requires a much more serious stimulation to block it out. As Kristen Lindsmith points out in her blog post on stimming pain is the one sensation that will overwhelm all others.

If you walk into a house with too many cats you may cringe at the strong scent of kitty litter, but if you stay and hang around youll stop noticing the smell. This isnt about attention, this is a physiological reaction. You really do stop smelling the cat pee. But if youre in pain, you wont acclimate to it. As long as the reason for the pain is still present, your nervous system will keep on sending you those signals. Not only that, but it will prioritize that sensation above others.

What Makes Stimming So Soothing Or Enjoyable

Worried About Your Childs Stimming? Heres What You Can Do

It’s not exactly clear why stimming feels good, but Fizur says that the behavior helps activate the many neurotransmittersaka brain chemicalsthat regulate our emotions. Dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate are the big neurotransmitters associated with self-stimulatory behavior, he explains.

Howard describes the relief she gets from stimming this way: My body feels squirmy when I need to stimlike actual worms wiggling around just below the skins surface. Sometimes before that feeling comes, I get a sudden rush of dread or a feeling that the wind is knocked out of me. Engaging the stim offers relief and pleasure, she says, and the pleasure she feels reinforces the behavior, creating a cycle.

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The Controversy Around Stimming

People who stim used to be encouraged to unlearn the behavior, sometimes with the help of therapy and/or medication. These days, most clinicians have started to accept stimming and believe it doesn’t need to be restricted if it isn’t causing harm, says Fizur. The side effects of medications that are used to control stimming can do more harm than goodso its best to address the issue with behavioral modifications if it even has to be addressed at all.

Some people are taking this acceptance a step further and celebrating their stims, particularly on social media. On the other hand, the idea that stimming is a distraction and should be done in private or not at all still holds sway. It’s a controversial issue, especially considering one study of autistic adults who told researchers they felt confused, angry, resentful, nervous, belittled, and ashamed when told to stop stimming.

The autistic people in the study also felt that neurotypical people often misunderstand stimming, which can lead to social challenges and an inability to function well, if stimming is their usual coping mechanism.

Howard says that her mom encouraged her to stand up for herself if people treated her coping strategies as if they werent valid or acceptable. But many people who stim learn to mask or camouflage this behavior. Although Dr. Davidson believes that modifying their actions might be the right choice in certain environments, it still doesn’t address the root cause of the behavior.

Hand Flapping And Sensory Processing Disorder

Its common for kiddos with sensory challenges to stim. As we talked about, self-soothing is all about regulating the sensory system and managing sensory input that comes in.

When kids struggle with sensory input to begin with, their bodies have to work extra hard to re-regulate.

The reason why some kiddos hand flap and others dont is because all of our sensory systems handle sensory input differently and need different strategies for dealing with it. Some of us are more sensitive, which may result in more hand flapping. While, others of us arent.

If your kiddo is hand flapping, its likely their bodies are more sensitive to sensory input.

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How To Stim Safely

What is Stimming? | Autism Stimming Behaviors

If you’re going to stim, make sure you aren’t causing harm. If its clear that the behavior is harmful, there will be bruises, scars, or raw areas on the body, says Fizur. Get help if stimming leads to pain or injuries, so you can develop healthier coping strategies. Adds Howard: I worked for years to rid myself of stims that bordered on self-harmlike digging my nails into my skin until I almost bled.

When you stim in public, Fizur suggests carry a card that explains your behavior, communicates your needs, and reassures those around you that youre safe. This card can include information that educates those who arent familiar with stimming. If you feel pressured to not stim in public, create an affirming space to practice stims at home and explain to your loved ones why these behaviors are important to your well-being.

Because stimming is a coping or communication skill, the behavior can help you learn more about what triggers your emotions or feelings of being overwhelmed. Finding community support can help you learn more about these triggers, while pro-stimming spaces on social media can help you feel less alone.

Ultimately, dont let others shame you into changing harmless behaviorsbut dont feel ashamed if youve decided to mask your stimming in certain environments or want to modify or stop doing them. The choice should only be made by you.

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Occupational And Behavioral Therapy

Certain behavioral or occupational therapies may help autistic people reduce or stop stimming behaviors. Applied behavioral analysis is a method of treating autism through a system of reward-giving.

In some cases, occupational therapy may be helpful. It may be recommended to help develop the appropriate responses to certain senses, such as sound and sight.

Speaking with a qualified healthcare professional will be helpful to work out what recommendations are most appropriate.

First What Is Stimming

Stimming is short for Self-Stimulatory Behavior, and essentially that means that its any sort of behavior that offers a person the stimulus that theyre craving.

Oftentimes, stimming meets an important sensory need for an autistic person.

Its SUPER important to not discourage your autistic child from stimming because it is one of several ways that autistics naturally regulate and meet our needs.

While stims might look strange, and they might even be annoying to others, as long as they arent truly harmful they should mostly be left alone.

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Why Do People Stim

As mentioned before, stimming is designed to help stimulate a person’s senses, but there are a handful of reasons why people feel compelled to stim and achieve stimulation.

One of the most common reasons people stim, with or without ADHD or ASD, is to relieve boredom and anxiety.

Chances are you’ve stimmed when anxiously anticipating something, such as sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office expecting to be called in soon or eagerly waiting for the results of the most recent exam at school.

Stimming helps expend energy that isn’t being used, and it can help redirect negative energy, like fear and anxiety.

This is why people stim when they are bored or placed in an unfamiliar or unpleasant environment. It gives them a chance to use the excess energy they have, adapts to the situations they are in, calms themselves down, and even expresses anger and frustration.

In some cases, people stim to provide relief for pain and discomfort. For example, chewing on a pencil can soothe a toothache, or they want to create noise and cover their ears to try to drown out the world around them.

Younger people with ADHD and autism spectrum disorder may also use stimming to try to gain attention. For example, if a child uses a loud and repetitive noise and achieves the desired result, which is attention, it reinforces this behavior.

The next section will detail what types of stimming behaviors should be of concern and how you can determine it for yourself.

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