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An Overview of Self-Stimulatory Behavior

Autism StimmingIn moments of anxiety, it presents as a nervous bouncing of the leg or tapping a pencil.

When excited, it appears as squealing or clapping.

If angry, it’s the tensing of the jar or exasperated sigh.

Self-stimulatory behavior (stimming) can be any repetitive physical movement, sound, words, and/or moving of objects. Most people, if not all, have experienced their own self-stimulatory behaviors. For children with autism, stimming is just one of the features that contributes to their diagnosis and makes them unique.

Self-stimulatory behavior serves numerous functions and may actually help us. For both children with autism and those without, stimming may be:

  • Natural
  • Self-regulating
  • Improve concentration

Parents often ask their providers about reducing their child’s stimming behaviors because they occur frequently or seem disruptive. Although stimming is rarely cause for concern, it may be embarrassing or uncomfortable for individuals and families. Stims can be unusual at times, but if a stim is not intrusive, harmful, and doesn’t prevent learning, there probably isn’t a need to reduce the behavior. In fact, many children with autism aren’t even aware when their stims occurs.

Though the stims of children with autism or other neurodivergence may be new to us, it’s imperative that we understand their function and purpose. With the latest training from Autism Services, we focus primarily on the environment as the place of change rather than the stimming behaviors. We hope in providing education on self-stimulatory behaviors, we will promote greater acceptance for children with autism and other developmental diagnoses.

— This post was authored by Lexys Sillin, RBT

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