Stimming, which is also known as repetitive movements consists of a number of self-stimulating behaviours or activities, which are exhibited by those on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. In fact, the DSM-5 also explains stimming as one of the factors for the diagnostic criteria for ASD. According to it, stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech are characteristics of stimming. Further, it says, “Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.”
Behaviours considered to be stims
These are a list of behaviours or body movements that are considered as Stimming-
- Unusual body motions like rocking to and fro while sitting at a place or standing
- Finger and hand mannerisms like hand flapping and finger flicking
- Visual stimulations like looking at an object or a person sideways, fluttering fingers close to the eyes, watching any object spin, etc
- Posturing, which includes holding fingers or hands out at such at a specific angle, arching the backbone while he/she is sitting
- Listening to the same noise or song repetitively
- Mouthing or chewing objects
- Repetitive actions/behaviours say, for instance, opening and closing window, flicking switches, and others
For any person like us, stimming can occur now and then, however, the number of instances and intensity is way too less than those experienced by individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Moreover, individuals who are diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder find it hard to stop a stim. They may exhibit a skim during most of the hours they are awake. This raises a major question as to what is the underlying factor/factors that cause such repetitive behaviour in those diagnosed with ASD.
Causes of Stim
These are some of the prominent reasons that stimulate a stim in a child or a teenager with ASD-
- Anxiety: This is one of the prominently beneficial characteristics of stimming. Stimming might help children diagnosed with ASD calm them down. This helps in reducing anxiety levels by directing their attention to the stim
- Excitement: Some of the children on the Autism spectrum may flap their hands or fingers, when excited. They may sometimes flap their hands for long durations due to the excitement. Such children may also squeal loudly and jump up and down while doing the same
- Under-sensitivity: Some children or teens are under-sensitive to their environment or surroundings. Stim actions like hand-flapping, finger-flicking and other such repetitive behaviours may directly stimulate their specific underactive senses
- Over-sensitivity: Some individuals with special needs are over-sensitive to their surroundings. Stims can help them calm down. This is so because it enables them to concentrate on a singular thing, which further takes away a portion of their sensory overload
The bad effects of stimming
One question that commonly crosses the mind of the parents of a child with ASD is “How can I stop a stim?”
However, it isn’t the right question. It is not possible to completely put an end to self-stimulatory behaviour. The reason being, be it an ASD diagnosed individual or any other person, everyone practice stimming. Moreover, even if a specific stimming behaviour gets removed, it’d be replaced by a new stim, which may be even more unwanted.
The good effects of stimming
Stimming is exhibited by a child with ASD when they are undergoing anxiousness, excitement and other emotions that they find hard to express in any other manner. This way, it helps them brush off the anxiety and sensory overload from themselves. This way, under controlled circumstances, wherein the stim doesn’t cause any damage or harm, it is okay to be demonstrated by the child.
Helping your child manage stimming
As per the experts, since stims offers pleasurable sensations, abruptly trying to stop it may affect the child adversely. Instead of this, it is recommended to slowly and steadily replace the behaviour with other socially acceptable and safe behaviours. In some cases, providing Occupational therapy, Applied Behavioural Analysis, environment modification and other such techniques or therapies, with or without a combination of medications that are commonly used as a part of the treatment of Autism, can help manage a stim.
To help your child reduce stimming, keeping these factors enable you to make better decisions. Sometimes stims can be normal and so can be neglected. However, most of the times, they may prove to be really dangerous for the child’s wellbeing. Other than the risk involved, it can be embarrassing for a parent, friend or a sibling. To lessen the intensities and frequencies, you can look for an Autism treatment centre that has a team of experienced and specialized clinicians and therapists.