Autism can result in many different symptoms. Some people with the condition may exhibit only a few or many of them.
One of the most common is stimming, which is one of the easiest to spot and develops early in children.
What is Stimming in Autism?
Stimming refers to any self-stimulatory behavior involving repetitive movements or sounds.
This can include rocking back and forth or flapping arms.
It can be a way for children with autism to calm themselves down, but it’s not exclusive to those with autism.
Individuals with autism may tend to have sensory processing dysfunction. They may react to external stimuli more aggressively, such as over-responding or under-responding to certain smells, textures, lights, and sounds.
For instance, shaking your leg when you’re nervous might also be stimming.
However, stimming in autism may look different. It can tend to occur in excess and can have a negative impact, potentially preventing someone from focusing or interacting with others.
Why Individuals With Autism Stim?
Research is still required to determine exactly why people with autism are more likely to stim.
However, many believe it’s a way to self-regulate emotional stimuli. Individuals with autism may have a sensory processing dysfunction.
They react to external stimuli more aggressively, such as over-responding or under-responding to certain smells, textures, lights, and sounds.
Sensory overload can be more common in those with autism.
Therefore, these individuals may stim to self-regulate their emotions and better manage being in an uncomfortable environment.
In these cases, stimming might distract the person from any discomfort or pain or block out the stimuli.
Autism Stimming Examples
Autism stimming generally refers to any repetitive behavior that goes beyond social norms.
For example, some people bite their nails when exposed to stress, but that’s often seen as normal in certain environments.
However, people with autism may spin in circles or flap their hands excessively.
For example, some people bite their nails when exposed to stress, but that’s often seen as normal in work and school environments.
Other examples of stimming with autism include:
● Covering and uncovering the ears
● Tapping or spinning objects
● Finger snapping repeatedly
● Flicking switches in excess
● Blinking more aggressively
● Rocking back and forth
● Flicking fingers
How to Manage Stimming
Parents may want to curb stimming in children with autism.
Initially, caregivers may seek to punish a child for engaging in the behavior, but this could actually make the situation worse.
It’s vital to remember that stimming is not necessarily a “bad” behavior. It’s not even intentional in many cases.
Initially, caregivers may seek to punish a child for engaging in the behavior, but this could actually make the situation worse by increasing stress.
It may just be a way for the child to emotionally handle a given situation.
But if it’s getting out of hand, there are ways to manage it.
Autism Stimming Toys
Stress management tools can help kids better manage stimming.
Fidget toys and stress balls are available for people to work with so that they don’t engage with other, potentially harmful objects.
Additionally, sound-blocking headphones may help with lessening external stimuli.
When to Seek Help
There are cases where it can be disruptive, like a child flapping their arms in a classroom when others are trying to focus.
Plus, it can be something that can cause injury, like a child rocking so aggressively they pull a muscle.
In these cases, it can be beneficial to intervene.
How to Reduce Stimming Behaviors with Autism
In the event autism stimming toys don’t help, there are other ways to curb stimming.
Environmental changes might help, such as soundproofing windows so that a child isn’t exposed to as many external sounds.
It may also be beneficial for parents to look into applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy.
This is a form of therapy where kids can learn how to better respond to social situations and learn new skills.
It includes positive reinforcement for advantageous behaviors. It’s been proven to be effective, and the younger parents sign their kids up, the more effective care may be.
What Are Symptoms of Stimming in Autism?
Stimming may develop in children with autism around 12 to 18 months of age. At this stage, it can be recognized as any repeated behavior, such as flicking hands or repeating certain words.
Many children without autism may also engage in such behavior, so it’s important for parents to understand the whole picture.
Does Stimming Always Mean Autism?
Stimming doesn’t always mean a person has autism. Many people chew pencils or fidget their legs, and it’s not disruptive.
Many toddlers engage in stimming to interact with their environments, but they eventually grow out of this behavior even when developing typically.
The right healthcare provider may be able to advise on stimming and specifically if/when it goes over the line.
Additionally, stimming can occur with other neurological conditions.