The following is taken from a transcript of a video made by Marion on stimming as part of our Autism Acceptance Campaign in April 2020
Stimming is short for self-stimulatory behaviours and it’s something that everybody, autistic or not does.
Stimming can be tapping a pen, jiggling your leg, twirling your hair, rubbing your hands together, anything that gives you some kind of movement and/or sensory feedback.
Stimming has a few different purposes including but not limited to;
- helping emotional regulation
- helping sensory regulation
- aiding concentration
- an expression of emotions
- and also sometimes just because it is good fun.
As a teacher, I always had a blob of blu tac in my hands when delivering a lesson because it was something that helped me to focus on what I was teaching, and when we’re delivering training, I always have a stim toy in my hands for exactly the same purpose.
Very often whenever we’re delivering training, we will bring along a variety of stim toys so that people can explore them, see how they feel, and see how it makes them feel whenever they’re using them.
Stim toys like these are something that I always have whenever I’m attending meetings and whenever we host meetings at the One Stop Shop we have a variety of stim objects that people can and do use. These days I rarely leave the house without one.
Stim Toy Examples:
Hand flapping in particular for me is something that happens when I’m really anxious, or when I’m dealing with sensory overload and when I’m very, very happy. If you give me some good news, chances are I’ll be flapping my hands and bouncing around like a kid on Christmas morning.
But, as I said, it’s something I do when I’m a little bit anxious as well. As happy as I am to go to the supermarket and get the food in, by the time I get to the till there can be an awful lot of sensory overload with all the noise that’s going on and I might start flapping a little bit. So quite often whenever I have been at the till somebody will see me doing this (flaps hand) and they‘ll ask me, “Are your hands cold?” and I’ll just reply, “No, I’m just autistic and stimming a little bit.” Quite often this is met with a bit of surprise because being a woman in her 40’s I am not anybody’s idea of a stereotypical autistic person.
Right now with the current climate there are an awful lot of autistic people who are experiencing higher levels of stress and you might see loved ones or yourself stimming a little bit more often than you usually do, and generally we would say go with it, just use the stim for whatever the purpose it has and as long as it’s not injuring yourself or others carry on. If the stim is self-injurious or injuring somebody else that’s the only time that we would suggest you do something about the stim.
Reason Behind the Stim
The first thing is look and see if there’s a reason behind the stim, is there any specific trigger that’s causing it and see if you can’t remove that trigger to lessen it, if it might be anxiety, so dealing with anxiety, it might be a noise that comes on the tv at the end of the programme, stop it before that part comes on and that should hopefully take away the need to carry out that stim.
If the trigger is something that can’t be avoided entirely, like a sibling during lockdown, then it can be helpful to find something that serves the same purpose but is safe. So that could be deep pressure from a pressure vest or a bear hug, could be swinging or spinning, or really loud music, anything that’ll do the same kind of job, provide the same kind of sensation, but isn’t going to hurt them or yourself.