There are somewhat odd behaviors that tend to go along with having an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
One of these is a phenomenon we call “stimming”.
There is no “official” definition in the dictionary, but UrbanDictionary.com has this definition:
STIMMING: Stim, stims or stimming is short for “self stimulation”. Almost everyone does it(tapping feet, cracking knuckles, twiddling thumbs), but in autistic people these behaviors are more pronounced and may seem downright strange. Autistic people often engage in stimming when they are stressed, to self regulate and sometimes to express emotion.
Autistic people stim in various ways, for various reasons. Often a stim is a self-protection measure, to help them filter outside stimulation—be it sound, light, or activity—so that they can process it. While a stim may appear to be a way to help them ignore or tune things out, it really serves to enable them to better process what is happening.
One of the first stims many parents notice with their toddlers is a fascination with wheels and things that turn.
Our son wouldn’t play with his cars by rolling them along, he would hold them upside down and spin the wheels. For an hour. It held him enthralled, like a magical spell or something. It was cute that he was so easily entertained, but wheels would just draw him in and it was hard to get him back to doing other things.
Another of his favorite stims was (and still is) water. He loved COLD water. he would turn the faucet on in the bathroom and just let the water run over his hands. We had to set limitations for bathroom times because he would disappear in there and not come out until the bathroom counter and sink were flooded and he was soaking wet. At 14 he still LOVES water and swims on a local swim team every summer. He’s not the fastest but it’s a huge sensory thing for him and he loves it.
Other common stims that kids may do include rocking themselves, hand flapping, bouncing or rolling, humming, and repeating or echoing sounds or words. As parents we need to be aware of our kids’ stims and what brings the behavior on. Sometimes when they are stuck on a problem, be in trying to express something, or a new social situation they simply cannot handle. A stim may indicate their need for assistance to get through what’s happening.
If possible, don’t wait for your child to get stuck. A stim is a flag for you.
Are you able to notice a correlation between your child’s stimming behaviors and being stuck, needing guidance?