Stimming: Everybody’s doin’ it.
I have a confession. I stim. Every night. It calms me.
Before I go to bed, I count off on my fingers how many hours of sleep I will get. Sometimes, I have to count half a dozen times just to get that sense of peace.
Sound odd? Maybe a little. I remember doing this as early as third grade. I have no idea why I have to do it, just that I have to.
I don’t just stim before bed. During the day, I find myself chewing on pencil caps, pulling apart paper clips, tapping my foot, organizing items on my desk into straight, perfect lines, all with little to no awareness I’m doing it.
You’ve probably figured out by now what “stimming” is if you didn’t already know. Short for “self-stimulation,” it’s a type of repetitive movement we do, often to ease tension or anxiety. Often, it’s subconsciously done. I’ve discovered the term to be co-existent with neurological disorders such as autism, though it’s certainly not exclusive. I’ve never been diagnosed with autism, but I certainly can appreciate, and practice, some of its attributes.
For my soon-to-be four year-old son who has high-functioning autism, his stimming is often a survival tactic. If he can’t do it, he “explodes,” if you will. I’ve watched him “stim” for years without realizing it had a name and a function. With his recent diagnosis of ASD, I have been thrown into a world of jargon and acronyms, stimming among them. Thankfully, with this new vocabulary, I am becoming better equipped to understand and help him.
I’ll never forget a recent visit to the park with my husband, our two young boys, sister-in-law, her husband, and their two young children. We were on a nature trail with a long, winding wooden fence. Naturally, Big C (my son with ASD) ran his hand along the railing. While I knew the possibility of splinters was imminent, I also knew there was no chance of stopping him. Big C needed to touch that railing. He needed to run his hand along its splintery edge to better understand his surroundings. As a sensory-seeking child, he needs to touch his surroundings, to smell them, even lick them (often to his mother’s chagrin) all in order to understand them.
My sister-in-law, a bit perplexed by my son’s behavior, asked why Big C was slowly running his hand along the railing, head down, humming to himself.
My husband merely replied, “Oh, he’s just stimming.”
The twinkle of pride in my husband’s eye – true understanding and trust between father and son – was simply magical.
While it may have a stigma to it, stimming really isn’t so bad. In fact, it can be quite therapeutic.
How do you “stim”?
Note: this post is part of a blog hop. Click the link below to read more about what it’s like to have a sensory-special kid!