Stimming. Probably one of the most controversial of all autistic behaviours.
Man, people get upset about it.
On the one hand there’s ABA therapy which (as far as I’m aware) aims to analyse stimming behaviours and tries to modify or eliminate the ones that are classified as “non-functional” or “inappropriate” as much as possible. People saying that stimming means the autistic person can’t concentrate, or is not paying attention. Or that it makes others uncomfortable around the autistic person because it’s so obviously different. That to be accepted as “normal”, the stimming needs to be as unnoticeable as possible. That stimming makes autistic people the target of bullies.
On the other hand, there’s Autistic Pride. Loud Hands. The joy of stimming. The fact that it is a very effective way to self-regulate, especially when dealing with sensory processing issues or overwhelming emotions. The emerging notion that it actually helps autistic people with learning and getting better results in school. That trying to take away the coping mechanisms of the autistic person, increases the chances of a new coping mechanism popping up, one that might actually be more harmful because the autistic person couldn’t use a less harmful one to cope sooner. And the anger and pain that despite what others have said and maybe hoped for their autistic child, hiding or eliminating more obvious stims doesn’t truly help in getting accepted and not getting bullied.
Despite all the controversy, there’s still a lot of confusion over what stimming actually is.
When I first read about autism, I started looking at things in a new light. Things in my life that seemed to fit the description. I looked at experiences that I’d never linked together and suddenly things made sense to me. I was sure I was autistic.
But I was convinced I didn’t stim. It actually rather worried me, because I was afraid that without stims I wouldn’t be autistic enough to get diagnosed. Well, alright, I did have a tendency to get very bouncy when I was excited about something. But that’s not really stimming is it? Stimming is the flapping and the rocking, right?
And then I read somewhere that playing with your hair is a stim. And I thought, “Hey, I do that. A lot. Actually a whole lot. In fact, my mum was always telling me to leave my hair alone.” And then I read that Alyssa of Yes, That Too strokes the satin binding on her blanket as a stim. And I thought, “Mmm satin binding, that feels nice, I need to buy more stuff wi… Hang on. That’s stimming too? I do that.”
So. After reading that Alana of Sleep wake hope and then thought she didn’t stim either (hey, it’s not just me), I had this idea that maybe we need to put together a resource. A list showing all our unique ways of coping with our environment. A list that might help others recognise the same things in themselves.
Autistic people. But also neurotypical people.
Because everyone stims. And it’s so much more than just rocking.
If you think this is a great idea, please add your stimming behaviours to the list by filling in the survey above! It doesn’t matter if you’re autistic or not. They can be as normal or as odd as you like. The only criterium is that YOU feel it’s a stim. After filling in the form you will see a link to the survey answers so far. Who knows, maybe you’ll recognise some extra ones! In that case, no worries, you can fill in the survey as many times as you like.
I’m not entirely sure yet how I’m going to make the results permanently accessible, but I hope this will at least be an interesting start!
Edit: I’ve figured out how to link to the stimming survey results!