Thursday, December 2, 2010
What does stimming feel like?
I found this to be a very good question. While a couple of readers took time to answer it on my wall at Facebook, I wanted to make sure that I answered it here too.
Stimming is generally a repetitive behavior that persons with autism may engage in. It may include rocking, hand flapping or gesturing in the air. It could be foot tapping, leg bouncing, or even something vocal. It could be clapping too.
Why the stimming? Sometimes, and I think most of the time, it's a calming way of directing energy or dealing with stress. It can also be totally unconscious in it's application and therefore much like a "tic". The difference being, once you notice you are doing it, you can stop it. Tics are harder to do that with. I have a tic in my neck that makes my head jerk to one side at times. I can't stop it if I want to. It just happens.
Stimming can have almost meditative effect on many of us. It allows us to either escape or cope with a given situation. But how does it feel? I think it feels like anything feels. Take something that feels good to you and calms you and consider that.
Lets consider a stimming of rubbing ones hands together. Try it. Rubbing your hands together makes them feel warm. It may not calm you, but to someone with a sensory disorder it could feel as good as a Sunday back rub. It could bring calm to their mind and be relaxing to them. It's hard to say how anything feels with clarity because everyone "feels" differently.
It's best to remember that it's usually a positive thing and helpful to someone with autism in dealing with the world around them. It's usually rooted in the sensory of the person as well.
Are there negative aspects to stimming? Yes, if the stimming is disruptive, considered gross or unhealthy, or could put someone in danger, it would be a stim to try and work out of. Stimming is very hard to correct and can be a powerful habit. Can these habits change? Yes, in our children who are growing up with autism, their stims can change as they age.
Unless it's proving to be dangerous or hazardous to health, stimming should not be punished or heavily discouraged. Punishing the behavior will have very negative results and be extremely frustrating for all involved. Can you imagine punishing someone for rubbing their hands together? Who are they hurting? And it's a powerful impulse. You may as well punish them for breathing.
So I hope this brings some stim understanding to you. Feel free to post examples of stimming as you know it in comments.