Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What is Stimming and what does it feel like?

According to wikipedia, stimming is;

"a jargon term for a particular form of stereotypy, a repetitive body movement (often done unconsciously) that self-stimulates one or more senses in a regulated manner. It is shorthand for self-stimulation, and a stereotypy is referred to as stimming under the hypothesis that it has a function related to sensory input."

The wikipedia article then goes on to propose some theories about the function of stimming and how it is designed to provide nervous system arousal. The theory being that it helps autistic people "normalize".

I'm not sure how much I believe that theory - I helps us relax and it feels good... but normalize?? Not sure.

The most commonly cited form of stimming is body rocking. Such is the prevalence of this form of stimming in Hollywood films concerning autism that you could be forgiven for thinking that autistic people stim by rocking most of the time.

How far does stimming go?
Stimming is much more than just rocking. It also includes;
  • Hand Clasping

  • Flapping

  • Knee bobbing

  • Finger Tapping or Drumming

  • Spinning Toys


I'm going to go out on a limb on this one and suggest that stimming should also include a few other behaviors. The wikipedia article has already suggested that in some cases, stimming includes deliberate self-harm, such as cutting oneself and head banging.

I believe that stimming also includes the following;
  • Making funny noises

  • Facial Tics and expressions

  • Certain types of singing, talking or babbling

  • Nail (and finger) Biting


My eldest child is particularly bad with the vocal stimming. Especially first thing in the morning on a weekend when you're trying to get a little extra sleep.

How does it feel?
Stimming is often an involuntary thing and we aren't always aware that we're doing it. Personally, stimming by rocking is quite uncommon for me because this is socially unacceptable. I don't think I ever really needed this form of stimming much anyhow.

At its simplest, the stimming allows you to concentrate on sensitivity and relax the thinking parts of the brain. In an Aspie, being able to stop thinking, even for a short while, is bliss.

Stimming is a very good relaxant and this probably explains why it is more often seen in stressful situations.

Of course, it also feels good.

As a parent, should you try to stop stimming?
Not really... No. (well, sometimes).

I think it's fair to say that stopping stimming could lead to stress in a child and also that it could cause them to change to a less visible means of stimming, such as self-harm.

It's probably worthwhile videoing your child while stimming and letting them see what the undesirable behavior is. Perhaps you can get them to be more discreet. Remember though, that they won't always be aware that they're doing it at first.

If stimming behaviors are causing your children harm then you should discuss them with your paediatrician.

134 comments:

Jennifer said...

Hi, I work with children with autism and I have a quick question for you. Do you find that "stimmy toys" tend to increase stimming after the toy has been manipulated? For instance, a child who stims visually plays with his leapster and other pocket games with a lot of lights/ visual stimulation. Afterwards, he seems to be more "revved up" and stims in other ways (vocals, physical). Has this been your experience? Any ideas/ suggestions to help him regulate these intense feelings? Thank you!

Gavin Bollard said...

That's a rather interesting observation. There's no doubt whatsoever that computer games increase stimming and also significantly increase anxiety - particularly amongst children who don't like to lose.

I'm not sure how well that applies to other types of toys. I do remember being "hyped-up" for hours after playing Merlin and other hand-held stimmy toys in the early eighties, so that could be right.

I'll have a think about it and will probably post a follow up. Actually, I might ask around.

Jane said...

My son does what we call "hands". He kind of rolls his fingers inward. When he is at home he loves to go into his room and walk in a large circle while doing "hands". When he is at school he does it under the desk. He also kind of freezes his face (sometimes his tongue comes out on the side.) I am so worried the kids at school will make fun of him. My husband and I would like him to only do this in his bedroom. Are we wrong to try to get him to stop?

Gavin Bollard said...

"Hands" is definitely stimming and it's probably not great to do socially.

The hand motions themselves are probably not too bad and I'd be more worried about face freezing and walking in a circle etc.

His school friends may not notice the hand movements by themselves.

As far as stopping him from doing it, you can't - it will just increase anxiety and could cause him to stim in other (worse) ways.

Instead, I'd concentrate on reducing the parts of the hands routine that are most visible to other children.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have 16 YO AS son who blurts out dialogue from TV shows and/or movies, and chews his fingernails to the quick. He says he does these when bored. He doesn't always realize he is stimming and doesn't like to talk about them. Is it a good idea to teach him control them when in public, or would it be better to find a quiet stim as a substitute? Also, when most AS's stim, do they block out their surrounds. I am concerned about stimming while my son is driving. Thanks for info. DM
mcmanis@aec2020.com

Gavin Bollard said...

Stimming by biting nails is a relatively safe stim, even if it isn't the most social behaviour. Unfortunately, it's a very difficult habit/stim to kick. I suspect you won't have much luck breaking it - and if you manage to break it, what will it be replaced with? Something worse?

Blurting out movie and television quotes is a very common aspie stim. It is also pretty much socially acceptable.

The point you raise about aspie awareness levels during stimming is a good one. I guess the best comparison is to liken it to listening to music while doing ones homework. From a parents point of view, this doesn't seem very practical but for many people, it provides more of a benefit than a loss. Many children produce better quality home work while listening to music than when they are not. The same is true for aspies and stimming. They often produce better work or are more settled in their surroundings while stimming than when they are not.

This is not to say that there isn't a loss of awareness. Depending on the degree of mental processing required for a particular stim, there will be some impact on concentration. It could possibly affect driving skills but it is only really likely to have an effect when a situation out of the ordinary arises. During these situations, it is quite likely that the aspie will stop stimming.

One more point about driving; When they're old enough, I intend for my children to attend safe/evasive driving courses as well as the usual driving lessons. This is because when I was young and had my first car accident, I did more damage as a result of my panic than the crash would have done had I completely let go of the wheel. The shock of the car going into a uncontrolled skid took too long for me to process because I had not previously been exposed to that motion.

Anonymous said...

Hello... I have a son with ASD, who visually stims often. He looks very closely at objects, walls, counter tops, everything really. I have read about visual stimming and most of the described stims involve looking at things from an odd angle or from the side, but this is not what my son does, he is more hyper-focusing I feel. although I could be wrong. Is this common amongst people on the spectrum, is there anything I should do to rule out a vision problem?

Gavin Bollard said...

You could certainly get your son's eyesight checked but if it all turns out ok, don't worry.

Visual stimming takes a lot of different forms. I remember going through two really particular types myself.

The Squint
This is where you mostly close your eyes and all lights take on a funny appearance. Tilting your head one way or another would make those those lights "dance".

The Fade
Unlike the squint which relies on eye closure and head movement, the fade is more of a stare. I found that if you looked very closely at an object, you could get the surrounding areas to fade to grey. It's hard to achieve a complete fadeout because the slightest movement will cause the picture to return.

It sounds more like your son is doing a "fade".

You might want to try asking him what he's doing - not in those words though. Perhaps approaching him when he's doing his "thing" and asking "are you trying to get something strange to happen with your eyes... how does it work".

A "buddy-style" question like this has a better chance of getting a correct answer. Good luck.

Joe said...

Hi, I've never been officially diagnosed with a PDD (at the age of 24), but I highly suspect it! I want to ask about things I do in relation to stimming.

For as long as I can remember I have smelled objects! The most convenient: my shirt and fingers. Although while I have been doing this for as long as I have known, I always thought it was because I enjoyed the smell. I do it public, even during college classes. I don't know if what I'm doing is considered stimming or not.

I used to repeatedly look left/right on car rides, or bang my head lightly against the back of the seat. I did them because I enjoyed them, although I don't know why I enjoyed them.

I have problems getting to sleep. I can't stop thinking. I didn't realize that was the problem until a couple of years ago. I do remember though as a child I would bang my head lightly, humming made up tunes to myself. I'd do this until I fell asleep. I stopped doing that at the age of 16, and occasionally I'll wake up to myself doing it.

Rocking is one thing I actually didn't notice until recently. I was checking out traits of stimming, and I told my friend, "Well, I don't rock!", and he said, "Yes you do, you were doing it just last night with your dog in your lap." Since then I have noticed that I in fact do rock on occasion. In fact, quite a lot on this new couch (it's very bouncy).

I've quite a lot of different things that from appearance would be assumed to be stimming. However, from my own perspective, I don't quite understand why it is I do them aside from saying, "I like it, I don't know why but I do."

Do you think what it is I do would be categorized as stimming, or just something I do because I enjoy doing them?

Gavin Bollard said...

Stimming is generally any sensory behaviour which is repeated because it provides a calming effect and enjoyable feeling. The sensory aspect could include motion, taste, vision, smell, touch, sound/noise-making or hearing. The "smelling" and head banging behaviours you report could certainly be described as stimming.

The constant movement of aspie heads while in motion could also be a form of stimming. It's a fascinating insight. It's certainly a very strong feature of aspergers and one of the key reasons why we are often described as "extremely distractable".

Sleep issues are definitely a problem for aspies - I've discussed them here before. When you start using noises/tunes to help yourself to sleep, you're actually performing a common form of vocal stimming.

Ron said...

Im in the process of being diagnosed for Aspergers. Im not sure I have it but there are many signs that suggest I do. Two of my stimming behaviours are: visual stimming: I look at surfaces like walls and try to visualy travel along the edges of objects that are in front of the surface like paintings, mirrors, cupboards etc. The second one is stimming by touch. This sounds probably weird but anyway; I take a piece of fabric from my trousers between thumb and middlefinger and by pressing down the index finger I make the fabric snap. I actually makes a snapping sound, jeans are the best fabric to do this. Its a really weird habit and drives my wife crazy but it relaxes me...

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have a nephew who has Aspergers who lives in Bolivia where there is little to no information about anything ASD related. He is a lawyer, 32 years old, married, kids, etc... A pretty successful life. However, his stimming is something he can no longer control in public. His stimming involves holding a pen, stick, comb anything he can get his hands on and talking to himself....he says he goes into his own fantasy world and talks about whatever appeals to him at the time. Is there anything you can recommend, he sometimes starts stimming in restaurants, in front of co-workers and he feels people think he is crazy. He says it is really hard for him to control. He does it when he is not focused on work...once his mind starts going free it starts. Any tips????

Gavin Bollard said...

Stimming is often considered to be the aspie's way of "self-medicating". This means that in the majority of cases, you probably should try to leave it alone - or modify the stimming to a less obvious form. Some articles suggest that simply increasing exercise helps to do this.

If that isn't possible then there are medications, like Venlafaxine (Effexor) which can reduce stimming but be warned. These medications have significant side effects and are usually anti-depressants. Many of them can also be addictive.

There's an interesting discussion on stopping stimming here which covers several alternatives. You might find some useful options within it.

There's also a great article on Stimming here which might offer some alternative and less obvious methods.

Anonymous said...

I think a good strategy is to engage in activites that fulfill the need for mild stimulation, occupation,or relaxation that are not that noticeable.

Visual stimulation can be acheived without notice by counting. For example, counting and estimating numbers of objects in the room.

I frequently roll or fold bits of paper, such as straw wrappers or store receipts. Alternatively, the corner of a sweater or shirt can be unobtrusively folded, thus providing hands/touch stimulation.

Hearing is the most unobtrusive activity as you can stop for a minute and try to consciously hear and identify the many background sounds in the environment. This is also a path to a quick nap, if you need it.

I suggest these as examples of stim type activities that might be used in place of more socially noticable ones.

Someone... said...

My parents say I stim a lot, but I am usually aware when I am pacing or humming, so I don't think it qualifies as stimming. Try telling them that though...

Donna said...

Here's a rather embarrassing one, but one nonetheless. I have AS and whenever I'm nervous or uneasy I quickly rub my hand in between my legs and smell my hand, thereby smelling my crotch. Or, If I'm sitting, I'll just spread my legs extra wide and smell.. It provides me with a sense of well being and ease like few other things can. Is this stimming? Have other Aspies done this? Am I totally abnormal?
I also rock when I'm alone, by the way.
Thanks for any input.

Gavin Bollard said...

Donna,

Stimming is very much a sensory thing and it follows the five senses (and maybe one or two additional ones that are less obviously identified).

Some aspies have problems dealing with particular sights, sounds, smells, touch etc; and will therefore find alternative ways to stim.

Sight
Aspies stim visually when they stare at patterns.

Sound
The most common source of audio stimming comes from music but some aspies will stim using all kinds of other repetitive noises.

Smell
This is really what you're describing and believe it or not, I've actually heard of aspies stimming in this manner. Given that it's an embarrassing thing to admit, it's likely that more aspies stim this way than are reported.

Taste
This is a lesser stim but I've still heard of it happening. It's more common to stim by mouth-feeling which is actually a touch stim, and something that babies and younger children do when they put toys in their mouths. Biting the nails is also a kind of taste-stim.

Touch
Rocking and knee bobbing are actually forms of touch stimming as are most forms of fidgeting or wringing of hands.

Mental Stimming
This is a different type of stimming and it's relatively unrelated to the five senses in the sense that it's from internal stimulii. It occurs when an aspie starts following mental patterns which could be daydreams but could also be reciting of routines (eg: mathematics) or lists, such as train stations in their heads.

Stimming is a normal part of autistic behaviour and unless it is dangerous or particulaly unsocial, it's not something you need to worry about.

Donna said...

Thank you so much for that helpful info.
I always do the crotch thing in front of other people but subtly... Don't know how to stop. It's rather embarrassing but I'm not really ashamed, as I know how much it helps me. I guess it could be seen as public masturbation to people who don't know. What should I do about it? Any advice would be appreciated.

Donna said...

Thank you so much for that helpful info.
I always do the crotch thing in front of other people but subtly... Don't know how to stop. It's rather embarrassing but I'm not really ashamed, as I know how much it helps me. I guess it could be seen as public masturbation to people who don't know. What should I do about it? Any advice would be appreciated.

Gavin Bollard said...

If you could change to a less embarrassing stim it would probably be better.

Although it would be possible to carry a scent, I suspect that the action is just as much part of the stim as the scent itself.

Provided that you're discreet and hygienic and not being caught, it's probably ok.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gavin, great blog!
I have a 6 year old son who has yet to be fully diagnosed even though he is certainly within ASD prism and a possible aspie.He's been through arms twitching to eye stimming(still does a lttle) and finally sleeve bitting/nibbling(which was a bit embaressing to be doing in public-wetting his clothes with his mouth).He has stopped or significantly reduced those types of stimming but lately he has developed a new kind of stimming involving his genitals.He is actualy masturbating by crossing his legs and bending slightly up and down while his arms and legs seem to eratically strech&twich(he also places his hand on his croch most of the times)!The thing is that he does it in public eventhough we(parents& teacher) have explained to him that he should only be doing this at home and when he is alone.He replies that he cant control it and that he does it because it soothes him down. But i am afraid his schoolmates are already starting to wonder whats wrong with him and we all know the consequence of being"weird" could lead with an autistic child at the school enviroment.I have many ways to explain to him and try to "talk" him out of it but without any results.I have noticed that he even does it while he is playing with his game console(which is his favourite thing to do)!Today was the worst day because he did it for like hours so intensely he could not get up and walk. Any suggestions or ideas would be welcome. Thank you.

Pat Smith said...

I really like your 'what is stimming and what does it feel like?' blog-post Gavin; I put a link to the post in a blog-post of mine the other day. The post gives people great insight into this not-so-well-known phenomenon known as 'stimming'.

Anonymous said...

our consultant diagnosed what your describing as tourettes...we didnt realise tourettes doesnt have to be verbal. the stimming repetitive movements can be 'motor tourettes'. look ito it, its amazing, all this time we never realised the twitching and movements were this. Didnt realise tourettes can also involve involuntary movements. you cant surpress them, the consultant asked us to imagine an itch which if your not allowed to scrach would build up & up & you'd habve to scratch it. hence the stim feels the same to the person needing to stim...I hope this helps someone out there.
cd

Anonymous said...

Just this weekend I noticed my God daughter constantly with her hands by her sides and touching her thumb to each finger tip sequentially and both hands in unison. It started about 6-8 wks ago and her mom asked her about it and she said she didn't even really know she was doing it and her mom asked me if I noticed it and what I thought. I also noticed at times when she looks at you she has an odd stare and slowly turns her head while keeping her eyes on you, sort of..or towards you at least. Any advice or ideas?

Gavin Bollard said...

Touching the thumb to each finger in unison is a common stim and certainly one of the more socially acceptable ones.

It's probably best to leave your God daughter doing that as attempting to change it may result in it being replaced by a considerably less acceptable one.

Anonymous said...

so, i've been labeled with AS (which i was told is not very common in girls but there isn't much info out there on the differences that AS girls tend to exhibit in comparison to boys).

anyway, recently i've been wondering if it's actually more akin to tourettes because my "echolalia" is limited to losing track of a conversation because of a sudden hyperfocus on sound, such that i hear a syllable and it repeats in my head, without meaning, getting louder and louder in my head each time it echos until i can't take it anymore and i have to "reset" my focus by making a different sound myself, out loud, such as "Ah!", which isn't yelled but is certainly loud enough to catch the other persons attention, and apparently often comes across as an "i forgot something and just remembered it" kind of sound.

also, i sometimes have invasive and sudden thoughts, usually about something embarrassing or regrettable, to which i will respond again with the "reset" sound in order to get my mind off of it. when that happens, those around me often ask "what's wrong?" so i figure it sounds about the same as when i get fixated on a sound and had to "reset" for that.

as for the mental stimming, i've never heard of that before but i do have this habit of "relaxing" throughout the day by designing in my head or on paper. i NEED to do this several times each day and i do it for at least a half hour each time, so i am viewed as a "daydreamer" and i'm not extremely productive in school or at work.

when i escape into my head, i will design ANYTHING by any means, employing lists, flow charts, 3D drawings, etc. but i most enjoy designing houses. i envision each being built on a real piece of property which i will find on Google Earth and which i have chosen according to research i have done on the surrounding area's culture, towns, geographic interests, etc. i will design the house right down to the selection of materials, "green" systems used, and interior design elements included, with the primary focus being the interaction of human lifestyle/workflow and solar positioning (all because i prefer natural lighting to artificial lighting)... does this classify as mental stimming?

what exactly are the differences between AS and tourettes in regard to these possible stimming behaviors?

Anonymous said...

I am curious to know if pulling hairs (from the eyebrows, eyelashes, nose, and even from the head) is a form of "Stimming", when it becomes a comforting obsession...?

Anonymous said...

My son is 7 and has aspergers. He spends a lot of time jumping up and down and kind of flaps his arms and hands while he jumps. He can also hum quite a lot when he does this. He does it a lot in school too and he looks like he is not concentrating at all, although he is (to some extent anyway). We really don't know the best way to help him as it draws attention to him in a big way. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Gavin Bollard said...

Anonymous,

If your son is jumping, flapping and humming, then the stim is probably drawing a lot of unwanted attention.

It would be best if your son could change to an alternative stim.

Your son is going to need to jump. That's a very common thing amongst children on the spectrum. Maybe get him a trampoline to help him get that out of his system.

Then try to find something else (less distracting)that he can do in class, like fidgeting or touching a piece of felt on his pencil case etc. Encourage him to do that instead and save the jumping for home.

Kenneth Udut (free.naplesplus.us - Naples News, Info, Jobs) said...

(This has been one of the most fasctinating set of comments I have read in a very long time, about anything).

I suspect highly that I have aspergers or something along the autistic spectrum.

The girl that touches the fingers sequentially and looks at you while moving her head: I do that - and I never really thought much about it 'til the last week or so thought for real that I might have aspergers.

You should see if she is musical - see if she has perfect pitch, could play musical instruments. I'd love to see if that stim is related to music. I've played the piano since a toddler, had lessons since I was five, and couldn't understand why other people couldn't make music out of any instrument, or bottles, or 5 gallon buckets, etc.

As a toddler through to today, I strum my fingers against tables, have to fight the strong urge to TOUCH everything in the store (I don't, but REALLY want to), never quite figured out the right timing to look at people, talk VERY quietly or too loud, make comments that get ppl to say "Did HE just say THAT!?"...

I'm almost moving some muscle somewhere in my body. The focus shifts. I either look up/down/side-to-side, cross and uncross my ankles, wiggle my fingers (I do that EVERYWHERE, especally wiggling the tips of my fingers), make slightly funny faces (they amuse me - I'm doing it now).

I'm very introspective, clumsy walking (unless I walk quickly - otherwise I don't quite know where to put my feet), like to babble songs in a made up language (too bad I'm not in a talking-in-tongues group - I would do it in a heartbeat, anytime, anywhere, if it were socially acceptable).

addicted to cigarettes (again, engages the senses, like a mini-meditation). Rocks front to back when playing the piano - and when I'm tired, shake my feet.

And all of these little things I do thousands of times a day amuse me greatly. They keep me happy, satisfied. Some mini faces (like an elvis curl of the lip) make me chuckle.

I type at 110-130wpm (even with a broken laptop keyboard), find it sometimes painful after a shower for 20-30 mins and drying off. Skin feels like its crawling and a deep itch - its not mere dry skin, although mega b-vitamins and magnesium and zinc seems to help calm the nerves down).

Do I have aspergers? Heck if I know. I figured it was ADHD, too much coffee, anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, or some other thing. But having aspergers would make a WHOLE lot of sense.

My brain works 10,000% better than my mouth. I feel like Moses who had to have his brother do all the talking because Moses had speech difficulties. Stuttered as a kid. Had to get biofeedback to control what mom calls those times I was "Inconsolable" - I'd get upset and wouldn't listen to anybody or anything 'til I was done).

I have a naive, positive outlook on life, yet I've learned skepticism and to be unsurprised when people have nefarious motives, even though I can't fully understand it. Always have a backup plan, get comfortable with Murphy's Law - anticipate it, even. Keep a child-like outlook but be as skeptical yet as fair as a good court judge, or a minister, or college professor or schoolteacher.

And I've never really known anybody like myself except when volunteering for the cerebral palsy center in union nj many many years ago (I'm in naples, fl now). I felt a real connection to the kids and teens who had cp, downs, emotional problems, autism - and this was back in '93 or so).

Thanks for listening. -Ken, Naples, FL http://free.naplesplus.us Homepage
http://www.facebook.com/kenneth.udut

pamela said...

Oh yes - the ability to stop thinking, even for a moment! To be able to turn you bloody mind off! forever going on and on and on at you, chains, mountain ranges of thought upon thought... I've so often wished my mind had a dimmer switch, so I could just ease it all down a bit.

I suppose I think of "stimming" as the classic rocking or hand-flapping, but it isn't that simple, is it... I do do things - fiddle with my bangle and ring or anything near my hands, chew things (anything) make repetitive patterns of muscle movement... when I do this, it's generally because I'm all wound up, so I associate it more with anxiety than calm. Also I feel like a stupid weird child doing peculiar things AGAIN!!! as I do so often.

I'm 48 - official diagnosis a year ago, thought I had it years before that, though - and what I'm finding a bit tough right now is the idea that it's neurological not psychological: that there is something different about my brain - my actual brain - and that will never change.

Thank goodness for the Net, anyway. The lives we'd live, alone with all this - it doesn't bear thinking about.

Alex M. said...

Hi. I recently began reading up on Autism and Asperger's Syndrome after several of my Aspie friends (I have difficulty making any other type, it seems) made numerous comments about how many symptoms of Asperger's syndrome I seem to have (which are a lot). I've spoken to a few people that are also relatives of Aspies or run groups that deal with them frequently, and they have all concurred on that point. Anyway, one of the "symptoms" that was pointed out to me is that I seem to "stim" quite a lot. When I was younger, I used to frequently bite my nails to calm myself down (until my step mother terrified me by telling me my fingers would fall off). I frequently pace in circles (like if I am outside on the phone, I walk in circles around the car very quickly). I also have problems with frequent leg shaking (I share this stim with an ex of mine who is an Aspie) as well as repetitive and quick 'mouse clicking' when I am online (clicking really quickly in a blank space on the screen while I am reading something)---another stim I share with my ex (we noticed our habits when we first started dating, before he was diagnosed with Asperger's, when we were on the computer at the same time and both began clicking around the screen superfluously). Anyway, I tend to do it frequently in both social situations (when I was in school, at a gathering of friends or family) and in situations that require me to focus (writing papers, reading books or articles). I was wondering if this sounds like true "stimming" to you. I am supposed to be seeing a specialist in Michigan when I move.

Gavin Bollard said...

Alex,

Everybody stims, Aspies and NTs alike and usually they're unaware of it.

Aspies tend to stim more often than NTs and it tends to be more for stress/anxiety relief. Most aspies won't be aware that it's a relief mechanism, they'll probably just tell you that it feels good.

Virtually any kind of repetitive behaviour without a specific point other than "feel-good" can be a stim. The difficulty involved in stopping the stim and the frequency at which it occurs is what distinguishes an aspie stim from a neurotypical stim.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am a 17 year old girl, and I've been dealing with symptoms of AS since as long as I can remember. My parents were very concerned when I was little, and as a result, took me all over to try and find a "cure" for my odd behavior. All of the people they took me to said that I exhibited some of the symptoms of AS, but not all. I didn't quite fit, as they put it. Anyway, they tried to stop me, but they couldn't. I know it's never going to go away.

The most obvious of all of the symptoms is the hand flapping. My mother called it Hand Dancing. I wave my fingers in front of my face, and suddenly, it's like I'm transported into another world. My parents argue that it interferes with my productivity, but I think otherwise. When I "hand dance" I make up stories, compose music, and create entire movies in my head. I am very involved in all of the arts. Some activities take me closer to the stimming than others. Playing the piano actually helps me control it. Writing makes it worse.

Less pronounced symptoms include ritualistic behavior, and a lack of empathy. I always thought that empathy was just common courtesy. When someone was feeling upset, I would comfort them because I felt like it was socially required. I only recently discovered that empathy isn't just polite behavior, it's a legitimate feeling--a feeling that I apparently lack.

Over the years I've learned how to hide all of it. Every person I know--with the exception of my family and a few understanding friends whom I confide in--believes that I am perfectly normal. I stopped doing it in public after the bullying became too painful in elementary school.

My question is whether or not a person can be diagnosed with AS if they only exhibit some of the symptoms, and not others. For instance, though I "hand dance," exhibit ritualistic tendencies and lack empathy, I am able to read people very well, make perfect eye contact, and more than adequately express myself in both written language and speech. The doctors said that I was just "idiosyncratic." Now, I'm not so sure.

Preston E. said...

I am a 14 year old diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. I stim often (although it has decreased with age), which usually involves tightening my jaw with my head down and sometimes other face tightening to go with it. However, although according to this article Aspies do this to stop thinking, I feel like I often do it more to think harder, like when I do homework or think of ideas for movies/video games. Other times I just do it when certain senses are being worked too hard (moody lighting in a restaurant, several conversations going on at the same time in a get-together, etc.) What does this mean?

Preston E. said...

I have more to add. I just read the post of "17 year-old girl" and I find a lot of similarities between me and her. Another symptom that I lack is little or no empathy. On the contrary, I actually have extreme empathy. It's almost like I "feed" on the emotions of others around me. I usually don't like to watch more adult comedy tv shows unless there is someone (like my dad) with me who can laugh along. It gives me such a warm feeling. It works the other way around as well. If someone that I know that's around me is even mildly sad, I am often almost thrown into a temporary state of depression. I read on the Wikipedia page on Aspergers that some Aspies do have extreme empathy. Is this true?

Anonymous said...

Hi! I am a step-mom to a 7 year old girl. for the past 4 years I have been asking her father to have her evaluated because it is pretty evident to me, and many others, that she has Aspergers. She is constantly walking in circles (i counted 106 times around the table once)and is ALWAYS humming. She cannot sit still and throws multiple tantrums (yesterday it was 4) over small things such as getting dressed. She makes friends well and is advanced in reading and writing. But lacks expression in her voice and is extremely literal. I have never once heard her have a "belly" laugh, or laugh on her own unless others are laughing. However, her parents (her mom is a nurse) think she is prefectly normal. I was told by dad and several family members that she cried for 14months straight as an infant and was slow to walk talk, and hated bath time. My husband and his ex feel that if something is wrong with her, her teachers will tell them. I have been in the teaching field for 10 years, and know that they have to take an initiative. Her teacher has only mentioned that she hums and it is distracting. How do I get my husband to listen to me? and convince him I am not crazy????? Please help =) thank you very much

M. said...

This whole thread has been so interesting! I haven't been officially diagnosed, but I'm pretty sure I have AS, especially after reading some of these comments.

Preston, that is so interesting to hear you talk about "extreme empathy". That is one thing that I have always wondered about. When I was younger, I felt like I was closer to lacking empathy, but lately, in the past two years I describe myself as "feeling too much" often. I can cry just thinking about certain painful experiences my boyfriend has been too, and I cry sometimes after sex because I love him so much. It's like whether it's good or bad, I get moved to tears. It's not always him that triggers this extreme empathy, but it happens with him most frequently.

Interesting to hear that this might have to do with AS too.

As for stimming -- I have LOTS of them. One question I have for all you though is -- how many of you involve pain in your stimming? If I am having an argument or tough discussion I often pinch or pick at my lips repeatedly and it helps calm me down. Anyone else?

Francheska said...

My son jumps up and down alot when on the playstation. He also sings/talks alot of made up 'nonsense' to himself. Is this stimming? He used to hit himself/pull his hair, etc when couldn't cope. Now he does the jumping/singing when he's relaxed ...

Gavin Bollard said...

Jumping is frequently a stimming behavior however many children, including those not on the spectrum, jump excessively while playing computer games.

It's something to do with co-ordination and muscular control.

Singing and nonsense talking or noise making are all very common forms of stimming. There's nothing wrong with them (except early in the morning when everyone else is asleep).

LaiTress said...

my son is 4 and about 2 yrs ago he started this bringing his hands to his face and kinda making a fist and twisting them while making alot of noises thing. he seems to me to be perfectly fine and excelling really well in class as any 4 yr old would. its just this tic thing that i assumed was from him being excited. he seems to do it alot everyday usaully while watching t.v. and playing w/ his toys.(things that get him excited). he loves trains almost obsessivly and we absolutly cannot leave the house w/o him wanting to bring at least 2 toys. even when he goes to school. he knows he cant play w/ them there but has to have em in his back pack. im assuming for the bus ride home? loves cars too!! anything w/ cars. his imagination is outstanding! his sitter says he is the best kid ever. she says he is content w/ a couple cars and will sit for hours playin w/ them. my question is: is this something i should worry about? i do believe he is unaware of his tics or stimming (as ive heard it called this) i will on occasion quietly ask him to calm down. he also is sensitive to certain sounds. the cable went out one day and it was static and he covered his ears and acted as if this was hurting him. also if i holler for his brother to come for diner. he will cover his ears and say "thats to loud" whats going on? please help me..thank you!

christie said...

Oh this thread has been amazing!! I was stimming almost the entire time. I am a 24 year old female who just discovered that I have aspergers syndrome. I noticed some odd behavior from my son and was panicking reading all the symptoms of aspergeres and realizing my son fit the discription until I realized, oh my gosh , I have aspergers!! I am so relieved to have answers to lifelong questions and now my puzzle fits! I am not afraid of my sons diagnosis Bc I "get" him! He is very smart and I do not feel aspergers should be on the autism spectrum! I am beautiful, bright, and very special. Although I have some trouble maintaining relationships, now I know why and I will try to be more understanding of "their world" since "mine" has only ever made sence. I hope parents facing this with their children can realize that while you might now always "get" your child, there is hope with intervention and therapy. Although I never received any myself, I will be seeking help for my son. I get why he stims and it feels so good. I great way to make sence of things that don't make sence. My world is perfect. I wouldn't have it any other way. I am beautiful, I am radiant, I am free, I am me! :))

Anonymous said...

Hi - My little boy is 4 and we are suspecting Asperger's. It is so hard to know for sure because he seems to "grow" out of so many the behaviors and he is still obviously young. He does stim occasionally, but it is usually only when he is excited about something. While playing with blocks, or coloring a picture and being praised for it, looking out the window while we are driving (not everytime), at a birthday party before cake, etc. We don't notice it when he is under stress or upset - seems to be only when happy. Just not sure what to make of it since most everything I read says that stimming occurs to self soothe in stressful situations. He is a very happy kid, loves being around other kids, honestly the only "thing" we notice is the stimming for the most part. Any info would be great! Thank you!

Gavin Bollard said...

Anonymous,

Everybody stims, it's just that children on the spectrum stim more frequently and more intently than most.

If stimming is the only behaviour you notice, I wouldn't be too concerned. You might want to redirect the stimming to less socially difficult forms but otherwise, don't panic.

When your son starts school, the teachers will be able to tell you how he is in relation to the other children. For many parents, that's the point at which diagnosis starts.

Anonymous said...

It is quite likely that I have AS. I have been yelled at for clicking my tongue, and I constantly cut my nails with my nails, or tap my toes.
I am currently attempting to convince my mother to take me to a specialist, yet it is hard to start the conversation. Might you give me some tips?

holly said...

I have a 5 year old son who for as long as i can remember has done some sort of stimming. when he was younger he would constantly bang on the table, chair, wall whatever he could reach. Now that he is older it has progressed to vocally stimming. Hes constantly repeatedly making noises, humming, singing the same song over and over again, clicking his tongue, makes faces and odd pitched noises. It goes on allll day allll the time. There was a point where he did this hand flapping thing and no noises but that didn't last long and now he is back to the constant repeated noises just worse. It seems to get worse the older he gets. He never slept well when he was an infant either. I don't think that he has much empathy either. I haven't been able to get any answers about whats going on so i know how to deal with this because its driving me crazy. One doctor said adhd and another said that was wrong. He can sit with intense focus on a task for hours at a time. And he is very smart and verbalizes well and is pretty advanced for his age. He is very literal also. Does this sound like aspergers to anyone else with similar situations? I"m kind of stuck.

Gavin Bollard said...

Holly,
That sounds very much like aspergers.

See criteria here;

You've cited A(4) and suggested A(2).
Stimming is B(3)

Have a look at C-F and see what you think.

holly said...

Gavin, you are right. He is also very intensely focused on a subject and wants to learn all aspects and details. I.E. we just spent the last month every night reading a book about volcanoes, how they work, why they happen, where they are etc. He was saying words by age 1, and has very 'adult' vocabulary. He can be obsessive about some things to the point of anxiety if you don't let him do it. He is much better when he is around immediate family but socially he is very inept and exhibits the same characteristics as described in your link. Having lived with aspergers yourself how did you cope with school? I'm very worried about my son who is only in preschool right now and starting kindergarten next year on being able to have a good school experience. He is very smart and loves to learn but it's difficult when he gets in a social situation with other kids/adults and it then becomes an impairment. (the noises, outbursts, and funny faces) I have no idea how to go about this as no one in my family or my husbands has this type of behavior/disorder. Any advice for a mom with no clue?

mazwk said...

hi could do with some advice my son is 7 going through cahms for asd hes always been fascinated with weird things not toys but household items lawnmowers lighters washers etc he suffered speech delay as a baby and always had problems at school now im worried about his habits he keeps twitching his eyes and moving up and down making a noise its worrying me he goes throught different habbits the last one was moving his eyes to the right and blinking them i could go on forever anyone in the same boat as me thanks

Gavin Bollard said...

mazwk,

If your son is verbal now, have you tried talking to him about his stimming. If possible, sit next to him next time he's doing it, and look at what he's looking at (or do what he's doing) then ask him what he's doing with his eyes.

It could be a stim, it could be deliberate (like squinting his eyes to make lights appear different)or it could be involuntary.

Medications can also produce these sorts of side effects so if he's on any, consider stopping them briefly to see if the stim goes away.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am 17 and have aspergers. I do this thing where I tense up my biceps and release them over and over again. I also always have a pencil with me and am rubbing the eraser. Are these thing stims?

Anonymous said...

Hello,
my son is not diagnosed, but may have aspie, and has in the last few moths started rocking more and more, I'm starting to worry about the social impact it will have when he goes back to school in September, and seriously considering getting him seen by a doc for a referral, even though his dad insists he is neurotypical and doesn't need any extra support. I have no idea if NT kids rock&stim, but do you think rocking will be a big deal in a class of 7-8yr olds?

Gavin Bollard said...

@Anonymous;

1. There's always someone in the family who denies the condition. Unfortunately, denial doesn't make it not real.

2. Anything that makes a child seem different to the group will be noticed. This includes stimming.

Having a diagnosis won't include anything which helps your child to stop stimming. Therapy can make it less noticeable and a label can make it more defensible. That's really the best you can do.

Anonymous said...

My 20 year old son has been diagnosed with Autism/Aspergers Syndrome since 5 years of age. He is extremely bright, but now has great difficulty focusing on college course work. He gets A's in psyics and calculas, and then failes courses that are easy, or not an interesting subject for him. He also has an ususal stim...whereby he will hold hands close to face, finger flap, while crossing is eyes and chewing on lips. Needless to say, this is not socially accepted. He has now learned to curtail this stim in public, but will continue at home, or with trusted people. He says he makes him relax, feels very good, and he is thinkng of a beautiful/pleasant thought at the same time. I don't know his prognosis for even graduating from college or holding down a job. His drivers license was taken away, since he raked up many tickets and our insurance soared. He is funny, bright and a wonderful person, who has some close friends. I am seeking help with higher education guidance counseling for my son.

Mallory said...

Hello,
I'm 15 years old and have had Asperger's for most of my life but my parents never mentioned it much until I asked about it.
I've recently started reading up on what the symptoms and issues that go along with Asperger's are. I've always known I had strange behaviors and had no idea why I acted that way until recently.

Some of the things I do are pacing around in the dark late at night or skipping/running around my house when my parents are out. Occasionally one of my parents will catch me doing it and I feel extremely embarrassed about it.

Would these be considered stimming? If they are, how can I change them to more acceptable/ less noticeable ones?

Julie said...

I have a 4yo son who was just diagnosed as Aspergers. When he is in a rage, what calms him down is hitting something, such as the back of a car seat, the door, or even a person. I feel it is more the arm motion and the impact of the hard surface that is calming. Is this stim behavior? If not, do you have suggestions for how to redirect this behavior so that it is not harmful to people? Remember that I'm dealing with a 4yo.

Devon said...

Hello Gavin,

I have an adopted daughter from China who will be 2 next month. She is still very young and has only been home with us for 6 months, but she has been given an ASD diagnosis. It is difficult for me as her parent to determine (or maybe accept?) that she is truly on the spectrum. She spent the first 17 months of her life extremely deprived of proper care, nutrition, and stimulation. We have noticed a lot of self stimming behaviors from the beginning, and new ones have emerged over time. These behaviors include staring at her hands, playing with shadows, staring at her reflection in any reflective surface, squinting, constantly making noise, rocking and head hitting (with her hand). We've been able to help her lessen rocking by rocking her in a chair ourselves everyday and giving her time to rock on a rocking horse and a swing. But, we don't know how to help with the visual stimming. Is there something we can do to give her the sensory input she needs to help with these behaviors? Thank you for your insightful blog and for taking the time to respond!

Gavin Bollard said...

@Devon, it's sometimes difficult to differentiate between underprivileged children and children on the autism spectrum.

2 is quite a young age for a diagnosis unless behavior is significantly different - which, in this case, it sounds like it is.

For the time being, you might want to treat the label as "possible" because six months probably isn't long enough for her to adjust to her new home and family.

Of course, the label should give you access to funding and services, so it's a good idea to take these onboard.

Most of the things you would do for a child with autism would also apply for a child with delays and apprehensions due to other psychological causes - so you should still continue down the path of autism.

You're doing great work in reducing the stims and you'll find that patterns, particularly stark black and white ones, will enable her to stim at home without being so obvious.

Keep in mind though that stimming is both an anxiety/stress coping technique and something that the child enjoys. Unless it's actually harmful, there's little benefit in taking it away from her.

As she grows older, she'll either move away from stimming or develop more socially appropriate forms but at 2 years, it's a bit too early to be concerned.

Devon said...

Thank you so much, Gavin! We understand that it's still early, and we're thankful for early intervention. She is getting great services. At this point, we're still trying to determine whether her autistic features are institutional or constitutional. Her social responsiveness has improved dramatically over the past few months. Though she still avoids eye contact at times, she seeks it out at other times, and she loves playing social games like peek-a-boo and patty cake. Time will tell... For now, we will let her stimming serve it's purpose for her. Thank you for your time and insights!

Devon said...

Thank you so much, Gavin! We understand that it's still early, and we're thankful for early intervention. She is getting great services. At this point, we're still trying to determine whether her autistic features are institutional or constitutional. Her social responsiveness has improved dramatically over the past few months. Though she still avoids eye contact at times, she seeks it out at other times, and she loves playing social games like peek-a-boo and patty cake. Time will tell... For now, we will let her stimming serve it's purpose for her. Thank you for your time and insights!

KGold said...

Gavin,
This was such a great post and follow up comments! My son (7) is being assessed for Aspergers and stims anytime he is a. idle or b. concentrating. It is so hard. He doesn't realize most of the time he's stimming. Right now, I'm reading a book (aimed at OCD) about helping alleviate compulsive behaviors. A few of his stims MUST be replaced/removed as they are UNACCEPTABLE (ie pinching himself, touching his privates, nose picking) and a few that are annoying at best (squawking...other verbal stims). I know that with OCD compulsions are driven by fear rather than a compulsion one doesn't even realize he is imposing; although, rigidity is a problem here too. Anyway, I found this a great read and thank you for sharing!
Thank you!
Kristi

Anonymous said...

Hi Gavin,
Thank you for such an interesting post. I was googling stimming and this was the first one to come up. My son is 7 and was diagnosed with Aspergers 12 months ago. He has been seeing a psychologist and occupational therapist for most of this time, and really seems to be progressing quite well at school and home. I am a school teacher, and did a day of relief in his class last week. I noticed that he stims the whole time he is in the classroom. He sits at his desk while the others are on the mat (something he arranged with his usual teacher..) and he rocks back and forth in his chair, squeaks, rubs his hands over his mouth and then puts them between his legs. He will stim at home quite often, not to this extent, and when he does we will send him out to the trampoline to jump, or break the stim with a game etc. I am a little sad for him that this is how he spends his day at school, because his classmates do notice now and comment on it. Is there anything I can do at all? I understand that I can't stop him from doing it, but I wish there was something I could do to 'help' him so that it doesn't become such a social issue in the future? Many thanks, Liz

Anonymous said...

My son is 6 and stims constantly, he either plays with his hands or his clothes or labels on his clothes and hum. His classmates have all noticed it and I am worried about bullying. He said to me it's all about feelings, he does it when he is happy and anxious but not sure how to introduce something that would be more acceptable, I give him fidget toys but he just reverts back to playing with his hands or clothes and he seems disnegaged from everything. I am wondering if diet would changee things.

Anonymous said...

You're an idiot! You've let all the therapists and concerned parents and psychologists convince you that they're right because they're the majority. You gave in. Why do you think people should live by the dogma of social acceptability? Why try to "normalize" your children??? This world is so sick and wrong. Our culture preaches individualism and creativity but then turns around and suppresses it.

Autism is not a disease, syndrome, or disorder. It's a set of traits that coincide with each other, like any set of traits...blue eyes coinciding with blond hair, a good singing voice coinciding with a good sense of rhythm.. Autism is just smart minds coinciding with special sensory abilities, being different due to off-the-charts creativity and a unique perspective, and sometimes having learning difficulties because the brain is wired differently and we don't yet know how to get through to them. And that part still doesn't make it a disorder because the good far outweighs the bad. Everything in the world comes with a negative side.

I personally think it's a not-yet-fully-developed evolutionary response to industrialized society. We used to have an agricultural society where everyone had to do a variety of tasks relating to their survival, instead of specializing. Now we are one big interconnected system with each person managing a tiny part of it. This system works more efficiently than the former, might I add.

So-called Aspergers children have obsessions with specific things, sometimes even parts of things. For neurotypical people, it is not normal to love and cherish and know all about one repetitive thing or part, yet it is required in many occupations, such as factory work. For "autistics" it is natural, therefore they are adapted to these aspects of modern society and it's easier for them to specialize.

As the world becomes more computerized, "autistics" will come to dominate the world...like Bill Gates. They have both technical skill and charisma on the internet, the new form of communication. One company hires only autistic IT technicians, not out of charity, but out of utility. The challenge right now is to make sure they know they're beautiful just the way they are and that there's nothing "wrong" with them. It's part of the natural diversity of genes and traits.

As for the difficulty with social interaction...that's a result of EVERYBODY ELSE being closed-minded. Take a look at how they interact with each other.

I hope that in the end, those who know who they are and won't be beaten down by normalcy will pwn you and all the others who doubt them. They will pwn with their amazing minds and unshakeable focus.

Trying to discourage them from stimming is like trying to shut down their fundamental mental processes. Stimming induces a state of high creativity, intense joy, organized thought, and amplified visualization ability in some. Who wouldn't do it? Those who think its a bad thing are probably jealous or something.

BREAK FREE OF THE SYSTEM, PEEPS!

Anonymous said...

I have Asperger's Syndrome and I do a type of stimming that involves rocking. I've done it for as long as I can remember, but my parents kept trying to make me stop. When I was a child they didn't know I had AS, in fact it hadn't really been identified yet.

I, myself, didn't understand my desire to rock, constantly, but with some educational enlightenment I now know why I do it.

It really doesn't "feel" like anything - in fact, I'm often doing when I don't even realize it. Usually somebody else points it out to me.

As a child I was considered to be "retarded." That was the word used to describe people like me, back then. Many of those same people ended up eating those words when I obtained a master's degree and maintained a straight A GPA in college. I'm currently pursuing a Ph.D. and plan to become a professor.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's amazing that this post is so alive after 5 years! I don't know if that's unusual for your blog. All of the comments are very interesting for me too. Autism and Asperger's spectrum diagnosis - ADHD too - is such a strange and fascinating thing for me. I have been drawn intellectually and emotionally to study and understand these categories, especially in conjunction with the study of movement and touch therapies.

I find myself very drawn also to people who are somewhat marginal socially. None of them, including myself, would be considered classically autistic or asperger's, however, almost all of my closest friends "stim" in some way or another at all times. Much of our internal group culture is dedicated to accepting and even celebrating these habits.

Most of us were socialized in childhood into acceptable "stims." For example, I sucked my thumb and twirled my hair until I was 8 (I would hide it behind my book in class) when my dentist weaned me off of it over a 3 month period. Now I find myself pressing my mouth with my hand and playing with my hair. I could even say that my love of dance and yoga are a way to "stim" acceptably. Those are both daily activities for me.

You do say that everyone stims, that it's the intensity and focus and duration that set apart those on the spectrum. But what I feel, and this is truly a feeling, not a thinking, and certainly not "expert" knowledge, is that the autism category is a useful way to think about behavior and development, provides a starting place for treatment, comprehension, and compassion, AND is not the only way, sometimes not the best way, to categorize someone's behavior/personality.

I think that many of my friends, had they been born in the 90's instead of the 80's, would have been diagnosed on the ADHD - Autism - Asperger's spectrum. Many of us have had to learn how to be socially appropriate, I certainly did - I taught myself, because my parents didn't really know how to be socially appropriate and maintain close friendships either. They are extremely intelligent, but not much socially.

Maybe we just rejected society and chose a different, bohemian, punk, hippie lifestyle. Maybe we're just quirky and odd and never really "fit in" - but not disordered. Or maybe we are all somewhere on that spectrum, and because of the time in which we were born, have learned to deal with it by living primarily in community with others who are similar and creating networks and systems that allow us to survive happily without having to change our quirks in order to be acceptable. We may not flap our hands, most of us, or if we do, we don't think it's a problem. But if we had been born ten or 15 years later, would we think it was a problem and think we were all disordered and instead of trying to create a lifestyle that meets our needs, be trying to conform to that imposed by media etc even more??

I don't know. Maybe it's easy for me to say all this because I've never been labeled, other than "slow but smart." But I am very glad that I never was because it would have been devastating for me, to carry that around for my life. I think about going to a hospital or specialist when things get really hard for me and I don't understand it. Instead, I go to my friends.

Anonymous said...

I'm sixteen and in high school. Although stimming does not affect much of my life, it is something I have dealt with after developing depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Body rocking, rolling my hands and feet, and cracking finger joints are things I do almost continually.

I just want to let people know that stimming does not necessarily mean your child has Asperger's or autism. And don't tell your kids to "stop doing it"! I've actually calmed myself down and effectively stopped or prevented panic attacks by stimming.

And I've never been called out, picked on, or scorned because of this. Granted, my stimming habits are not as severe as some people's, but just because your kid stims doesn't mean they'll be bullied. :)

Unknown said...

Very interesting thread. I have a 15 year old son who has been stimming since he was 2 1/2 yrs old. It started with a Darth Vader action figure that was loose in the middle. He would take the action figure and make Darth's legs spin around. His stimming then progressed to a cup with a pencil inside and he would move the cup around and then watch the pencil move around inside. He would talk very quietly while doing this and it sounded like faint gibberish. For the last several years he has been using a child's plastic hanger with the hook part broken off and a lint remover without the tape on it. The lint remover is put in between the hanger and he makes the hanger spin. His stimming has dramatically decreased as he has gotten older and the only time that he does it now is when he is sitting on the toilet and when playing video games. When he was younger, I asked him why he did it and his response was that it made him think. Now he says it is just a habit, like someone who spokes cigarettes. He also showed signs of a sensory issue while in kindergarten. Loud noises bothered him, now there is no issue at all with that. I did take him to a Psychologist when he was about 5 and that dr thought he might have Asperberger's at first, but then after testing, we were told he had a touch of everything (OCD, ADHD, ASD). The dr and his pediatrician did not have an explaination for his stimming and just called it a "very interesting habit". A couple of years ago he was formally tested for ADHD and was diagnosed with ADD (inattentive type). Is stimming common with ADD or maybe my son does have a touch of ASD.

Anonymous said...

could picking skin till it bleed and scab picking be a stim?

Gavin Bollard said...

@Anonymous, yes; picking at scabs is a stimming behaviour. It's more common in younger adults but I can remember several people who did this when I was little.

It was their way of introducing sensory feedback.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the reply- my son who is 10 has been picking skin to make scabs & picking scabs since he was about 3. he's recently been diagnosed with tourettes & dyspraxia but i suspect he may have aspergers so i'm trying to suss out at much as i can before his next hospital appointment. if he touches anything with one hand he has to touch with the other- could this also be a stim? he said if he doesn't the urge starts to build.

Gavin Bollard said...

That last bit sound a little more like an OCD behavior than stimming. It doesn't mean that he has OCD too... in fact, he may not even have the other things he's been diagnosed with.

Aspergers has a way of masquerading as other conditions. (See: Co-conditions)

Anonymous said...

I'm an adult with Aspergers. I do the visual thing that someone wrote earlier where I follow the outlines of things with my eyes- like window frames, cupboards, etc. When there are patterns in things, I count them in my head and use my fingers (usually held down) to imitate the shapes. I will follow the shape of things with my eyes and use my fingers discretely to follow the shape.
My other stim involves books. I read a lot. When I was in school I would be reminded to be quiet because as I was reading a textbook, I would love to constantly roll a pencil or pink eraser up and down the top of the book. Now as I read, I constantly ruffle pages at the corners or hold a single page at the side and middle and make it "wave" down the the middle, then create the wave toward the top, then wave down to bottom. Repeat. I also like to finger the binding at the top and bottom of the book. But my favorite is to have a book with that thick plastic covering. I crinkle the edges over and over as I read. I love the sound- I'm in heaven and it helps me focus on reading. Needless to say, when I return a library book, it looks very used! I can browse a shelf at the library and recognize any book that had been in my hands because it's crinkled and wrinkled! I cannot imagine reading books on kindle or the like. I would not be able to focus or have any pleasure reading if I could not handle and fidget with the book. Poor books!

Anonymous said...

Also, AS people can become irritated by other people's stimming behaviours even when they do the exact same thing themselves.

Annabelle said...

Gavin,

My child was screened for autism at age 2 and at age 3, both times they said highly intelligent but no special education services needed. He's 4 now, and I still think he's on the spectrum. Can you tell me if these things sound like aspergers or autism to you? I'm considering getting him screened again, but by a different service this time around.

1. Stimming - (mostly at school storytime, nap, and at bedtime) constant movement, constant whispers/babbles, licks book edges and licks knees, also moves head in unusual way while babbling. (kind of like stevie wonder does when he sings).
2. Tantrums at school, hitting, pushing, throwing, normally over toys, results in tantrums and time outs, gets in a lot of consequence type situations at school, 1 teacher thinks he's oppositional, another thinks he may have special needs
3. Is extremely intelligent, very articulate, family and friends almost always suprised with how well mannered he is, how he's like talking to a little adult.
4. Very sweet and adorable child but struggles in school mostly.
5. 80% of the time repeats questions in an unusual way "Son, would you like an icecream", responds "I WOULD like an icecream" or "I can have an icecream" rather than just saying 'yes'
6. Finally, he struggles a bit with directions, if you say 'look infront of you' he may look everywhere but infront.


Its been difficult with screening as he goes in just adorably sweet, we believe he saves the majority of his stimming for when he gets home, right after school. He has socially struggles with other children but not so much with other adults. If you met him for 1 day you may notice articulate bright child, slighty monotone voice, but if you spent a week with him, you'd notice more. The autism screening is just a 1 or 2 hour session so i believe they are missing it. I think he could potentially continue through public school system as he is very bright, but he does also need some help.
Any advice? Should I take a video of him stimming to a screening to show them? or is this going overboard?

Please advise!

Anonymous said...

No i believe this is called tricotillamania and is an anxiety disorder where people relieve anxiety by pulling out hairs,eyelashes, etc just as u desribe

Anonymous said...

Would an eye stim in a 6 yr old be a sudden onset? My grandson about 3 wks ago started looking out of the corners of his eyes at things, saying it makes them look bigger. wasn't all the time then but now it's most of the time he's swinging his head looking out of each side. He looks me in the eyes when I tell him to and if I hold his head he can keep focus on me straight ahead. He did nothing like this or what I've been reading on your blog until 3 wks ago. He's 6 yrs old and I'm afraid for him to go back to school. Kids are cruel.

Gavin Bollard said...

Stims can certainly appear suddenly "out of nowhere" as a child learns how to do a certain behaviour.

A fine motor skill, like a specific eye movement is a good example.

If you're not sure, get it checked out by a doctor but if it's a stim, there's very little that you can do about it.

Anonymous said...

My son son always does vocal hums or like a jump ip and down when hes on computer games i asked why are you doing that he says he has to do it he as always had obsessive behaviors and ocd behaviors and gets upset very easily he is under cahms at the moment ongoing

Sam said...

I'm a 29 year old female and am convinced I have mild AS. I have done quite a lot of research, including reading a few books by RUdy Simone( highly recommended for any females with aspergers). Anyway.... I just wanted to know if the following are considered stimming or are just part of my life long anxiety/depression... (which I also believe to be a unfortunate part of aspie life)
- whistling... Usually the louder I can get it, the more satisfied and happy I feel.
- teeth grinding or putting pressure on alternate sides of my jaw/teeth to the tune of songs I make up in my head (this often happens as I am trying to go sleep)
-clicking in my throat
- skin picking, I have many many scars on my back /arms/face from years of picking and this is generally worse when I am stressed/anxious.
- making my shoulders/back/stomach tense up and releasing them repeatedly to the point where I find it hard to control and it actually isn't a pleasurable/relaxing habit, more annoying and uncomfortable.
I think these are the main 'Stims' I am questioning. Many thanks for any response, :)

marvstoltz said...

My son who is 13 now was diagnosed at a school as having PDD-nos while in Pre-K. He had a severe expressive language delay they said, hated loud noises, loved tactile things such as sand, water, gravel, fur, and had irrational fears, (such as the sound of a train crossing a mile away he was sure would come and run over him). He lacked empathy and would avoid eye contact. He often seemed in his own little world and we had his hearing tested just to make sure but his hearing was normal. You could say his name repeatedly but we had to touch him and force eye contact for him to respond at times. He had severe night terrors at times where even when we turned on the lights to show him there was nothing to see he would continue to see whatever he was scared of for a few minutes. He quoted movie lines and felt anyone who looked at him without his approval was teasing him. I took him out of school and began homeschooling. I used to make sensory bins with pasta and beans for him to sit and play with. He would go into a trance sort of state for an hour or more just flicking them through his fingers. We eventually tried medications but the side effects were scary so we stopped them. He has improved every year but has switched certain behaviors for others. He reads very well, has good understanding but walks in circles, flaps his hands, touches his lips repeatedly while daydreaming aloud (whispering sometimes), wakes the house with odd noises every morning or three a.m. (random), gets excited when others are excited and tenses his whole body up while grinning from ear to ear and so much more. He is left-handed, double-jointed, has gigantic corneas, digestion problems, and something called optic nerve headdrusen (deposits in the back of his eye surrounding the optic nerve and causing elevated pressure. He is very unique and gifted. He has near perfect rhythm and has been able to play drums since he was 3. He has never drawn pictures unless coerced and has no drive to be creative except in his imagination. I believe he is Aspergers and not just PDD. Also very, very hyper.

marvstoltz said...

My son has exhibited hand-flapping, sound hypersensitivity, touch hypersensitivity, avoiding eye contact, spaciness, pacing, daydreaming aloud, especially in the mornings, walking in circles, expressive speech delay, and so much more. He is 13 now and has grown out of some of the behaviors, such as night terrors and unrealistic fears, but now touches his mouth alot with his fingers and flaps much more. He was diagnosed at a school in Pre-K with PDD-nos but I believe he has Aspergers. We eventually pulled him out of school because he was treated as a problem to be solved and alienated (small school) and he is now a very good reader, has good comprehension but very poor math skills and difficulty dealing with abstract ideas. He loves animal fur and seems addicted to peanut butter and bananas, (high in phenols) but he is a great drummer and good at sports. He is so unique and has a great sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

Very good article. I will be facing many of these issues as well.
.
Also visit my web site ... How To Cure Anxiety

Anonymous said...

I believe that I stim at times.
I was at an awards ceremony with a friend and I was unconsciously drumming on the table. When I was younger, we had these porch chairs that rocked, and one time at dinner my dad told me that my rocking was making him dizzy.
I also repeatedly say whatchamacallit and thingamajigger and thingamabobber because I know what I'm thinking but it gets blocked or slowed somewhere between my brain and my mouth.
I'm also very fidgety, playing with my pens and pencils during class.
I also haven't ever been very good with empathy. My little sister gets homesick, I just tell her to take my phone and text mom as many desperately homesick texts as she wants, as long as she stays out of my room.
I also tend to be a little domineering. I want things my way, all the time. I think its a search for control, because I can't depend on a schedule, given that my family's too big to rely on one.

Anonymous said...

I frequently touch my mouth with things. It was embarrassing once because I accidentally did it with a friend's earbuds. I also stick out my tongue while concentrating or (usually) scheming.

Anonymous said...

I watch a kiddo that walks in circles & plays with their fingers a lot ,also when someone knew comes in the room this kiddo puts their head down & won't play till they leave just sits there. I'm not sure what is wrong something just doesn't seem right,but mom says her child doesn't act like that @ home but I have heard her say this child does with gma when she is not around. Is this kiddo just a nervous kiddo or is something else going on?

Gavin Bollard said...

Although those are stimming behaviours, stimming is not uncommon in children who aren't on the autism spectrum.

Usually it's the amount and intensity which matters.

I can't really say without knowing more about the child but if it's a problem, you should take the child to see a specialist.

Mandygirl238 said...

My 3 year old son has started a weird habit. He puts his head on the floor and speed crawls with his head on the carpet. All the time. Our older son has some of the characteristics of SPD but his pediatrician just thinks he's quirky, not SPD or aspergers. Is my 3 year old stimming or having a sensory issue, or is it just because it feels good. He's given himself rug burns on his head and bonked into things because he's not looking.

Mandygirl238 said...

My 3 year old son has started a weird habit. He puts his head on the floor and speed crawls with his head on the carpet. All the time. Our older son has some of the characteristics of SPD but his pediatrician just thinks he's quirky, not SPD or aspergers. Is my 3 year old stimming or having a sensory issue, or is it just because it feels good. He's given himself rug burns on his head and bonked into things because he's not looking.

dawn said...

my son is 9 and has adhd, and sPD but is not on the ASD scale. Stimmining for him is a way of taking anxiety and calming down, even the hand held leapster he played with or now his DSI, its all a way of stimming, and callming for HIM, they even sell a disc, the dizzy disc for kids with vestibular problems, my son has that, and after stimmming on that particular device, kids and adults can be calm for hours on end (Amazon sells this tool, just read the reviews) anyway im commenting because ,maybe WIKI, needs to understand that stimming for different disorders, produces a different result! I use to self stim when i was little, i'd start by walking in a tight circle, and up the speed until my body felt like it was sideways almost, and then i'd be relaxed! I too was dx'd 39 yrs ago with HD, and my doctor would not put me on the "new" meds they had, so I had to figure out ways of coping, and I did. I got lucky! to this day im the leg shaker, i didn't know why until my sons DX, then it was like AHA! I used to do those things too!! Oh one more thing, he does like to chew on his arm, and i have bought a bracelet made for this, and since then his arms have been left alone.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am a mom to a 4 year old boy who I suspect has Aspergers. Although not as expressive with his language, he is extremely intelligent, he started reading books at 2 and a half, could count up to 100, knew the alphabet, all the shapes(even cone. cylinder, octagon etc) He maintains eye contact for short periods of time, is hyper, recites lines from movies especially funny movies. He went through a stage when he learned all the logos of car manufacturers, and would name every make and model on the way to nursery (he had various obsessions including lego, sticker activity books etc) however his latest and longest one is googling Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal etc, repeatedly watching the videos of them on youtube. He even hums the tune and has been researching different ones dating back to 1920 etc. He refuses to potty train, and sometimes is so busy on his Sony tablet that I have to feed him his lunch or dinner. He runs back and forth across the living room for 10 minutes at a time ( he can do this at 45-1 hour intervals if he is not busy with his obsession) He also uses lego blocks(builds a small structure and holds it close to his eyes at every angle). Recently he has been studying a plastic hanger(I am guessing the triangular shape represents "Paramount Pictures" logo..) I finally have an appointment with the paed at the end of this month and I am so nervous about the assessment. My biggest fear as a mom is that my beautiful, intelligent, amiable child will be bullied due to his lack of social skills...

Dennis said...

Hey, I do the fabric snapping thing too! All my life, I've pinched the thickest part of the seam on my jeans hem and snapped it! Pillow seams too! I've always worn them down. The balls of my thumbs have calluses. Also, up until I was 16 I had to rock myself to sleep. But at that age I forcefully made myself stop and found that I could sleep all the same.

Anonymous said...

Hello,

i have a 3,5 years old son and he has Asperger. The main problem is that he jumps up and down all the time, like 70% off all day. We somethimes manage to disturb him in jumping, but sometimes, he is very mad, and doesnt want to stop it. it draws lots of attention of other people. Please, tell me, what terapy could reduce this stimming? To whom I should go? Will he ever stop to do this stimming and will he ever be aware of this unwanted behaviur? Thanks.

Gavin Bollard said...

Anonymous,

Probably the best thing you can do for your jumpy 3.5 year old is to get him a mini-trampoline and let him get his jumps out there.

In time, you'll be able to teach him that his jumps should be done on the trampoline and that if he needs to jump at school, he should try to save it for later.

It won't always work but it will reduce the attention he draws to himself. When he gets a little older, you can give him something else to do when he feels the need to jump, such as a squeeze-ball that he can carry in his pocket.

For the time being though, he'll probably need to jump until he's old enough to understand the social implications.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for so quick answer! We bought a mini trampoline a month ago,and we put it in our living room, but as we put it there, he wouldnt do anything but jumping. So after a day or two, we decided to put it away. I tried to do lots of things to reduce it... but with no succes.Maybe I could put it on the second floor of our house ( we live in third floor) so when he starts to jump, maybe we should say him to go on the second floor? What do you think? So, he speaks well, his coumunication with us in house is also well, but this jumping and repeating conversations from cartoons are thing that op.... I am preaty sad and worried. What is prognose for "jumpers"? Will he be able to go to regular school? He is very inteligent, but this behaviour... I am so worried.... I am sending you many greeting from Croatia. On our forums, I couldnt find lot about jumping.... Tnx.

Gavin Bollard said...

Jumping does reduce over time but it will be a long while before it becomes manageable.

Putting the trampoline in the living room is probably not the best thing to do as you want your son to know when he needs to jump and to learn to jump in a more private setting.

You also want to try to encourage him to play and talk normally in the living areas.

Given that he's still quite young and that speech is developing normally, there's no reason to believe that he won't be well suited to a normal school.

Anonymous said...

Let your kids out of the house. Have them run around. Sign them up for organized sports or other activities.Seems like there's all these people inside their houses, and other people analyzing their every friggin movement. Let. Them. Out. Stop staring at them.

SYLVIA MCGRAW said...

My son has asd he chews, rocks,flaps, fecal smears, he makes sounds, eats his feet, finger nails, sits in odd positions, he is extremely intelligent, over loving, never gets mad, thoughtful, sensitive, however is in mostly regular classes in school. maybe ive been around him too long but it all seems normal to me, i chew, bite my nails, and rock, im obsessive,

Mandy said...

I feel a little bad picking your brain about this! It seems you have been answering questions for over year now from this post! My son has Asperger's--just recently qualified for services through the school. He is five. Right now, he says lines from TV shows and sings a lot. I never thought this was a problem (he is my first child and just thought he had a song stuck in his head). Anyway, he got in trouble in school today because he could not stop making noises during story time. I am assuming all this repeating of lines from TV shows (which seems somewhat socially appropriate because they are usually humorous), and singing is a stim. Do you have any suggestions for alternative things he can do when he wants to vocalize at a time when it's not appropriate?

Mandy said...

My son has Asperger's recently diagnosed. Do you have any suggestions for alternatives to vocal stims (he likes to sing and repeat lines from movies)? Right now he is running into trouble at school because he won't be quiet during circle time and story time. Would a quiet stim (squeezing a stress ball) be a good substitute to a vocal stim? He is five, by the way. Thanks!

Gregory Malcom said...

I have never been diagnosed, but was curios. I just thought it was a bad habit. I like to rub my finger tips, thumb tips on slightly sharp objects. ie. I will fold a piece of cloth or paper to create a sharp point,then rub my finger or thumb against it. I do it almost constantly to my book corners while reading them...which has made having an e-reader rather a challenge for me.

I know I started this in grade school, I know there was an improvement in my grades after I started this but doubt it was the cause.

My mother said I was pacifying my self much like sucking my thumb, which I have never done.

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm 20 yrs old I don't know if I have anger issues or not probly... But sometimes I get so mad upset I just start to punch the hell out of my face/check bone area below the eye and if it gets really bad I'll take a baseball bat to my head a couple times, and I can't stop my self I've been doing this for about 4 yrs now does anyone I mean anyone no why I do this? Please help like I can control the baseball bat to the head but my fist to my face I never / can't control that please tell me why it would help a lot thanks

Anonymous said...

I punch my self in the face I even get a baseball bat sometimes and just start hitting my head I can never stop it I can never control it please help and don't delete my post this is serious this is real this is my life and I need answer okay

Anonymous said...

Does chronic masturbation count as stimming?

Anonymous said...

My 2yr old son places 3 fingers on his forehead and crosses eyes while starring at them. He also places a cuffed hand near the side of his face, jumps on toes consistently, hums, and has a vocabulary of about 10 words. I have had him evaluated and the results stated non categorized disability with a possibility of autism. Can you please offer some insight, im looking.for more answers. Thanks n advance.

Michelle said...

I have AS and I'm a girl (30). One of the posters above seemed to doubt the diagnoses because it wasn't 'common' . Friend, Lots of things in life aren't common. I have no doubt about my diagnosis.

This is a great blog with much good information.

Jessica said...

As the original post was quite long ago I am not sure if you check it anymore. If so I would love your suggestion on a stimming problem that my son is having at school. He taps his fingers, pounds his desk with his fist rhythmically and makes snorting noises when he gets anxious or frustrated. It is really upsetting his teacher and it disturbs the other children but he says he can't stop and when his teacher demands that he stop he has a full on melt down. What can I do-he says he doesn't know he is doing it until his teacher is already mad about it then he gets so flustered that she is mad that it only makes it worse. Everyone is frustrated and I keep getting called down to the school without a clue how to actually do anything more than clean up after this mess each time it happens. Any suggestions would be great.

nancy k said...

My 8 year old daughter was diagnosed AS 15 months ago. Finally, all her quirky habits made sense. She got a note in her daily notebook log yesterday from her teacher asking her to please stop singing and humming in class. When I asked my daughter about it she began to cry and said she can't help it.She also jumps a lot and flaps her hands. She struggles in math but excels in reading comprehension. Just wanted to share our experience.

Karl Nordling said...

What do you think of the Son-rise method, of the care giver joining in in the stimming to help establish contact, maybe with a non-verbal autistic person?

Gavin Bollard said...

Karl,

Good question. Lets take it out of the whole Stimming context for a minute.

You're listening to a song in your head - perhaps even singing along. You like the beat, it calms you.

Then someone comes down, sits next to you and starts singing the same song.

Is it good?

...

The short answer is probably no. When you're in the right mood and you don't mind the other singer joining in, then it all works and you establish great contact. This is rare however.

Most of the time, the other party becomes at best a distraction and more likely an irritation. It actually makes you annoyed at the person and damages the bond.

In my opinion, copying stimming behaviours carries more negative than positive baggage and if repeated regularly creates a risk of the child further distancing themselves from the other person.

Anonymous said...

Most of the mentions of stimming I had read previously described hand flapping. or rocking. Since I don't do those things I thought I don't stim.I did not realize til reading this article and these comments that I probably do stim in various ways. nail biting, subtle finger presses against objects, etc.

Dawn said...

Hello, from los Angeles. My son has Down syndrome and Autism. He is 10, and since he was a toddler he has been doing a mouth tapping stim, and he includes humming "eeee" and teeth grinding. He holds most electronic leapster type toys with music to his ears and sways back and forth and mouth taps and hums to the music. (loud, "ahhhhhhh") But the teeth grinding and mouth tapping are continuous, regardless of toys, and I can say "hands down and he will stop - but picks back up again. My question is, have you heard of this mouth tapping/teeth grinding and what can I do to help him minimize the need for it? I've heard once, that using a trampoline is beneficial. Thanks in advance!

Gavin Bollard said...

Hi Dawn,

Using a trampoline is only beneficial in this sense because it's almost impossible for a child to continue a stim while jumping. He'll most likely go back to the stim as soon as he stops jumping.

The same could be said for giving him chewable things such as chewelry and gum.

I'm not sure how you could stop a stim like this unless you could get him to understand the danger to his teeth.

Perphaps you could take some steps to reduce stress on the teeth, such as a mouthguard?

Akash Farrugia said...

hi.
i was diagnosed with Aspergers, after many years of misdiagnosis's, i find myself constantly counting things, for example i will count how many letters are in a word and so on. i also bite my nails and at night my brain starts to shut down and i start rocking backwards and forwards. the only way i can stop rocking is to go to bed and sleep till the morning. is there anyway i can stop the severity of the counting as its really annoying???

Leon Volskis said...

Any advice for a NT adult guy living with an 'Aspie' woman??? Intellectually I think I can understand what's going on with her stimming, but is there any way that I can get her to 'see' what she's doing, and how it may be impacting upon another person. EX: while I'm driving a car, I find her constant hand motions incredibly distracting, and worry that one day I'm going to get into an accident. She seems totally unable to modify/control this in any way, no matter how many times I point this out to her. Maybe my more basic question is - can as Aspie 'see' /comprehend their behavior at all??? I try to point things out to her constantly, always hoping that she'll gain some insight into herself, but it always seems to lead to a BLIND, dead-end. HELP & thanks for your advice.

Leon

sadlywaiting said...

Gavin, first of all, thank you for your blog. I'm so glad I found it.

My oldest son was recently diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder by a school psychologist. I think it's Aspergers. He stims by doing what he calls "hand shows". While his current teacher has helped him enormously to decrease this behavior at school, he hasn't stopped it. In fact, he seems to be doing it more at home now. When I tried to explain this to her, she didn't understand.

I brought it up again at a recent follow-up meeting to his IEP; he's transitioning to middle school next year. Again, his teacher failed to understand my point. I was very gratified when yesterday, our inclusion support teacher (I work at this school) spoke to me when she gave me copies of the paperwork we'll be submitting to his next school. She understood my concerns, and doesn't think he needs to stop his hand shows. I don't either. I would like him to minimize it in public, so he's not shamed or bullied, but I don't expect him to stop it. I know it provides him some relief. I just wish I could get his teacher to understand that I appreciate all she has done for him, to minimize his hand shows at school, but also to understand he is not going to ever stop stimming.

Again, thank you so much for your blog - and for this topic in particular. It has been helpful for me to read your comments and the comments of so many others.

Squishy said...

Hi I am in the process of getting my son diagnosed with aspergers. He does some things that I am concerned about. He talks to himself alot generally from when he wakes up to when he goes to bed. His obsessions with certain things like star wars is a tad full on and can't seem to get him to move on from it. The main thing inam concerned about is that he has been crushingnhis hands forntge past year and a half now. He puts one hand on top of the other and rocks up and down putting pressure on his hands. He zones out while doing this too and takes a while to come out of it even if we are yelling at him to stop. My husband and I are quite worried that this is doing damage to him. He is only 9 years old and I have been told that this is borderline self harm. Can anyone please help with ways to help my son stop this behaviour. Thanks

Kezza said...

Hi, love this post, very clear explanation of stimming. I have referred to your blog post in my blog. Here is the link. http://disabilityableismautismandmotherhood.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/swinging-my-favourite-stim.html

Anonymous said...

I don't think anybody should ever tell anybody on the spectrum not to stim, or to only stim in private. Stimming is an integral part of our development and the management of sensory overload (which is what it means by normalise), taking that away from somebody can do a lot more harm than good.

Who cares what people think of you, if it's a stim that helps relax you, go ahead and stim to your heart's content.

Before I was diagnosed, my parents forcibly stopped me from doing what we now know were 'stims' and it did a lot of harm to me. When I realised what they were and that I shouldn't be ashamed of them, it made my life a lot easier to handle.

Please don't make people feel bad for doing something that is as natural to them as speaking to people is to you.

Kim Gaston said...

I have a 12 year old I suspect is an Aspie kid. He had delayed speech, has been diagnosed as hypotonic, has been in OT for years. He has been stimming forever. This may sound weird, but when he was a year old, I would strap him in his highchair to eat, and he would kick the removable tray of and hang upsidedown...just looking at me while smiling. He then would constantly touch classmates and walls, anything, when in elementary school. As he got older, he would laugh constantly while watching television and flap his arms. At 12, he still does it, but has tried to suppress his laugh to an awkward chuckle, which he does for 50% of the show. Do you have any suggestions that may help him socially? He is going into middle school this year, and I am terrified his peers will crush his beautiful spirit.

Anonymous said...

my three yr old son is going throught referral process,at moment. one thing he does is constantly repeat a nursery rhyme over and over and some dayas are worse than others ive always thought it was an obsesive interest but the interest is always on repeatigng the rhyme. could this be stimming

Gavin Bollard said...

Anonymous,

It's certainly possible that your three year old could be stimming via nursery rhyme.

I guess it depends on why he is saying it but if the aim is to calm or provide pleasurable feedback, eg: if he's clearly enjoying the sounds of the rhyme (ie: vibration on the tongue, possibly motions associated with it).

Endless repetition is only part of the stimming cycle. The feeling is the other part.

Anonymous said...

I have never read up a lot on any sort of autism, but I just read an interesting thing that I've experienced myself and I have never been considered to have any sort of ASD, AS, or any sort of Asperger's. I have done the thing where I focus in on a pattern or object until a gray (really more of a blue) surrounds what I'm focusing on, but as someone else stated, one slight movement, one distraction, and that is all gone. It looks normal again. I found this interesting to know that others have experienced this. Despite experiencing this, I doubt I have some form of autism. Good luck to all of you and just be yourselves!

Anonymous said...

First, get a diagnosis from a doctor. Contact the school and schedule an IEP meeting. The school is required to make allowances and adaptations for your son. Next, as the owner of this blog has said, try to find stims that are less distracting to other students. You want to try to keep your son in regular classes as much as possible.

Moe said...

Thank you for the helpful article. y 21 year old brother has this habits of doing movements with his hands as if he is giving the finger. He has had this habit for a couple of years now and recently has started talking alone in a high voice. We hear him saying a couple of words loudly when he is alone in his room.
Do such things fall under stimming? Should we take him to a specialist?
Thank you.

Kenneth Udut (free.naplesplus.us - Naples News, Info, Jobs) said...

They sound like Tics - it may be stimming, I mean, you can take him to a specialist if you like, but imagine things this way:

Many of these are social disorders.

They "look funny" to those around him that don't do them.

They want him to be just like them, or a closer resemblance to them.

But if he isn't harming himself or others, to me, it's normal for him and they're just outbusts - just as if someone either banged their first on the table when mad or laughed when happy.

Thing how strange laughing really is in the scheme of human behavior?

He expresses himself differently - not for the benefit of those around him, but for the benefit of himself.

An urge that he follows.

Kenneth Udut
Naples, Florida USA
simplify3

Anonymous said...

Hi Gavin! Thank You for this blog. : ) I am hoping you can help. My 6 yr old GD has been diagnosed as having Asp, but am now concerned with her having tourettes. For the past several mths she constantly twists her head as far as she can to one side as though she is looking at something far behind her. sometimes throwing her off balance. she does this continuously. she is also obcessed with swearing and just rattles things like be quiet even when we are not saying anything and she'll keep repeating it. she doesn't fall quietly to sleep, she is jumping or dancing wildly until she DROPS to sleep. It is exhausting for the rest of us and no matter how much of an active day she has, we know she is exhausted too. She DROPS at all hours of the night. Defies any type of schedules. Can tell that she just cant seem to help it. look forward to hearing from you. Thanks again.

MochaBarbie11 said...

Hello Gavin, I have an 5 year old cousin that has experienced the death of his two parents about two years ago. He comes over to play at times and while he's watching movies I can see him getting up walking back and forth waving his arms and biting his finger nails. If he sees me he'll ask me what I'm doing. I'll ask him what he's doing and he'll say I'm doing the happy dance. I'm a little worried about him because he says that it makes him tired. He has also been flapping his arms since he was younger no one really thought anything by it.

Gavin Bollard said...

MochaBarbie11,

It's possible that your 5 year old cousin could have aspergers but stimming is also a reaction to stress. It could also relate to trauma. You should see if it can get looked into by a professional.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I am a 16 year old girl and I am concerned that I may have Asperger's. I recognise the feelings you describe about stimming and was wondering if the following spcould be classified as stimming behaviours:
Foot tapping/knee bouncing - I do it all the time, usually when sitting down. It makes me feel like I am resaeing nervous energy, in control
Biting and chewing things - objects, clothes, people when I was little
Compulsive urge and enjoyment of picking scabs
Wringing my hands together
Thanks.

Gavin Bollard said...

Anonymous, Every single one of those things is a stimming behaviour which signifies at least high levels of anxiety.

Pagec Page said...

Hi, my 9 year old boy has Aspergers and we were discussing his 'need' to get into verbal arguments with us. He intentionally goads us, he is incredibly rude and when we suggest that he is doing it on uprise he agrees, we try to tell him that when the argument is over he will regret it but he seems completely intent on 'seeing' the argument out. He is highly verbal and very bright. Ordinarily he is a lovely boy, but when he is (mainly tired, anxious) ready for a fight, he will do almost anything to get one, including throwing bottles of water at me, throwing things in my face... All with the intention of getting into a verbal argument, where he says the same things again and again.... Our psychologist has suggested that this behaviour might be a verbal kind of stimming. Any thoughts?

Gavin Bollard said...

Pagec,

Given that the behaviour that you're seeing with your boy is reactionary, it's clearly not stimming.

Stimming is a mostly subconcious thing. This behaviour from your son is deliberate.

As you said, it's probably something to do with being tired. It might also be a way of guaranteeing some one-on-one time with you.

If the opportunity arises during these episodes, try to divert him to an activity which you can both enjoy. Give him some one-on-one time with you but in a non-confrontational way.

If this works, then you need to find a way to get him to "use his words" when he wants time with you.

Sarah Faguy said...

My daughter is ASD, however my question is in regards to myself.
I have never been diagnosed with autism but some of the things I do have got me thinking that I might be on the spectrum too.
Examples: I do this knee bobbing thing and sometimes I pace back and forth, tapping my fingers together.

When I was younger I used to compulsively bite my nails.

Today, I had this meltdown brought on by problems with my computer and I started rocking and hitting myself(feeling embarrassed by it now)

I have been told by a couple friends that I have some signs of aspergers? o.O

Anyway, is it possible to go my whole life this far with autism and not even know it? I'm 31 now and my daughter is 4(asd/spd)