What is Stimming?

“It helps me cope with fear, nervousness, excitement or boredom in my world.” Self-stimulatory behaviors also known as “stimming” is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects. It is considered a way in which the child can calm or self-stimulate themselves. These movements may include:

  • Rocking

  • Spinning

  • Hand flapping

  • Starring at flickering lights

  • Pacing

  • Aligning or spinning objects

  • Rubbing surfaces

  • Hopping

  • Characterized by rigid, repetitive movements, and/or vocal sounds

The question that most ask is the repetitive behavior a problem? The answer varies with yes and no. It is important to note that none of these behaviors are in themselves dysfunctional. There are times when thinking and acting repetitively can be a very useful way to learn, process or coping with the world. However, sometimes these behaviors do become unproductive and interfere with other functioning or affect the ability to adjust to a new situation. There are several ways to reduce the “stimming” behaviors. Exercise is a good way to calm the body or by providing someone with alternative, more socially-appropriate, form of stimulation. The ultimate goal should be to replace the behavior with another behavior that provides the same type of reinforcement, but does not make the person stand out. For example, teaching someone who flaps his hands in the air to instead put his hands in his pockets or lightly tap a table or his leg, or clasp his hands together.

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