Around the autism community you may frequently hear the term ‘stimming’. What is stimming? It’s simply a word that is used to describe a repetitive body movement such as hand flapping or rocking. An individual can also have verbal stims which mean they might hum or make a particular sound repeatedly. Do all individuals with autism stim? I likely doubt it!
Stimming, in our house, it’s an everyday occurrence! It’s funny, my son’s main stims revolve around excitement or happiness, so when I see him stim, it’s a good thing. He’s a bit of a jumper and has this hand movement that he does… it’s not flapping, but kind of like wringing his hands and fingers together. If he’s REALLY excited, and if he’s sitting down, he does the same thing with his feet! I LOVE it! Without fail, it brings a huge smile to my face as I feel the joy that he is feeling at that moment.
We’ve battled many times with schools and program coordinators who want to stop him from stimming – and quite frankly, I won’t allow it. It’s something that helps him cope and it doesn’t harm anyone. One school day that comes to mind when I think of those wanting him to stop. He was in the classroom – in actuality this was a specific autism class as well, so this behaviour shouldn’t have been a surprise – and he was excited about what he was doing at school. He got up, stood beside his desk and proceeded to jump. Now, when I say jump, I am talking about relatively small jumps and he pretty much does it in one spot… it’s not like he’s outside jumping on his trampoline. It was only for a few seconds and then he apparently sat back down again to complete his work. The teacher approached me after school and expressed that this ‘behaviour’ was something that was going to have to change. Ummmm… sorry, but right now, I don’t think so. This ‘behaviour’ is something that helps him to self-regulate and manage his emotions. Now imagine to yourself if I said to you that you had won a million dollars in the lottery… BUT you couldn’t cheer, shout, jump or express any emotion whatsoever. Sadly, this particular teacher that I spoke with that day, probably could have pulled that off, but I don’t think most people could. You would just be to excited!
So, he stims and expresses himself… it’s his way of coping and once he’s done he is back to being productive with his work. If he is unable to express his emotions this way, chances are he’s going to be experiencing anxiety and frustration later in the day, or that’s the way it seems to work with him. I love watching him play video games – which is something for which I seriously lack skill – he has one controller in each hand, jumps up and down and does his hand movements (as best he can with the controllers in his hands), and he’s STILL better than I am as I fumble trying to figure out which button does what!
I am a firm believer in allowing a child or an individual to stim as long as it isn’t causing any issues, such as putting them in danger. I am told over and over again that his stims just aren’t socially acceptable. Well, you know what society… you can take your rules and expectations and, well… I’ll let you fill in the rest since this is a family friendly blog! I let my son be who he wants to be… who he needs to be! If at some point HE finds it an issue than we will work toward replacing his stims with something else, but at that point, it will be his choice.
I have said this before, many times, but society NEEDS to learn to accept and understand our loved ones for who they are. Sure, many times ignorance comes from fear but to fix that, ask questions… Google ‘Autism’… educate yourself a little bit about it. Autism affects 1 in 88 children! It’s everywhere! Accept it!
What do you think? Do you think children or individuals on the spectrum, that have stims, should they have to stop their stimming because society doesn’t think it’s appropriate? Or is ‘fitting in’ more important?