What is Stimming: 5 Reasons Children with Autism Stim 

What is Stimming: 5 Reasons Children with Autism Stim

What is stimming? Everybody stims! Think pen-tapping, humming while you wait, or twirling hair. “Stimming”, or self-stimulation, is a way to regulate emotions or even entertain yourself for a moment.

For those on the autism spectrum, stimming is usually more pronounced and is even part of the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Stimming here refers to repetitive movements, sounds, or actions that people with autism may engage in. 

Stimming can take many different forms, including hand-flapping, rocking, spinning in circles, repeating specific words or phrases, chewing, dropping or dumping objects, or flipping through pages of a book. These behaviors can be mild or severe, and they can occur at any time, in any situation.

For many years, stimming was seen as a negative behavior that needed to be stopped or controlled. However, more recent research has shown that stimming is an important tool for those on the autism spectrum. 

To understand why your own child stims at certain moments and in certain ways, here are some reasons why children with autism stim.

What Is Stimming: For Sensory Input

People with autism often have difficulty processing sensory information, which can easily lead to sensory overload. Through stimming, they can regulate their sensory input and reduce the likelihood of feeling overwhelmed. Hand-flapping or rocking, for instance, may be providing your child a soothing sensation that is working to help them calm down. 

Alternatively, if your child requires more sensory input, stimming can be a way to acquire it. In these moments, stims like jumping up and down or watching a ball drop may help your child become more regulated.

What Is Stimming: As a Self-Regulation Tool

Stimming can be used as a tool to regulate emotions. When a person with autism is feeling overwhelmed or anxious, stimming can provide a way to release pent-up energy or tension. This can, in turn, help them feel more in control of their emotions and reduce the likelihood of a meltdown. 

What Is Stimming: To Communicate

For some people with autism, stimming can be a form of communication. For example, if your child is feeling overstimulated, they may start to rock back and form or spin in circles. This behavior can be a signal that they need some support. In this way, you can use their child’s stims as a way to connect and recognize how they are feeling. 

What Is Stimming: For Enjoyment

Stimming is often a form of enjoyment or self-soothing for people on the autism spectrum. They are behaviors that allow them to feel more relaxed and comfortable in their environment. Stimming is even known to release endorphins in the body to bring contentment. 

What Is Stimming: To Reduce Pain

Some stims can become a little more frightening or dangerous. Stims in which the child hurts themselves intentionally, self-injurious behaviors, are often to decrease pain they are feeling either physically or mentally. A common form of this is head-banging. When stims become harmful to your child or those around them, it is time to seek guidance. 

Stimming is a natural behavior for people on the autism spectrum, and it serves an important role in regulating their emotions and sensory input. By understanding and supporting stimming, when it is safe, we can help children with autism thrive. 

At Gersh Academy, we provide therapy and resources throughout the school day to help your child on their journey to fully express themselves. If you are interested in talking to us about our unique program, reach out here



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