Have you ever bitten your nails when you were nervous, twirled your hair around your finger, or anxiously paced around a room? These behaviors are all examples of ‘stimming’. Stimming, or self-stimulatory behavior, is common in children with autism. Many people do not know what it is or why it happens. So, let’s take a closer look at stimming in children with autism.
What is Stimming?
Self-stimulatory behavior is characterized by repetitive or rhythmic movement or vocalization. Children with autism often stim as a way to self-regulate their sensory environment. It can be very calming for kids, and it can also help them focus on a task. Examples of stimming often include:
- Rocking back and forth
- Flapping the hands
- Repetitive speech
These kinds of behaviors are primarily harmless and should not be discouraged. However, sometimes stimming can disrupt the child’s environment and the people around them. Some uncommon stims include self-injurious behavior such as head-banging or biting.
It’s important to understand the different aspects of stimming behavior, so you can effectively manage it and ensure your child is safe even when they are in a heightened state trying to regulate their emotions.
Why is My Child Stimming?
Rather than trying to stop the behavior, it is more beneficial to understand the motivation behind your child’s actions. There are many different reasons children engage in self-stimulatory behavior. It may be a way for children with autism to deal with and regulate their emotions. It can also help them self-soothe when they are overstimulated or understimulated. Sensory processing can be complicated for little ones on the spectrum, and they often look for an outlet to reduce their anxieties about their environment.
Managing Stimming Behaviors
For the most part, many stims, such as hand flapping, are harmless, and you should not try to “fix” this behavior. However, there are ways to encourage skill development while reducing time spent stimming. For example, you can manage the sensory and emotional environment to maximize personal comfort for your child. Exercise is also an excellent way to release pent-up energy and reduce the need to stim because exercise is associated with beta-endorphins like stimming.
It is important to accept that your child may engage in certain behaviors to cope with their environment and regulate their emotions. The more people understand these behaviors, the more they will be accepted by society at large, and children on the spectrum can be themselves.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.