Stim or stimming is a term that is typically used when talking about a person with autism. It is specifically for a certain type of behavior. In reality, we all stim, every single one of us. Some people cross their legs, twirl their hair, or rock their legs and/or ankle.
People with autism rock back and forth, twirl in circles, or flap their hands. Typical people pace and dance. People with autism watch a spinning fan or the wheels of a toy car spin. I have a friend that loves to use a long broom and sweep her driveway and patio.
She knows enough about autism to know she is stimming. She also knows she is stimming in a socially appropriate way. Some people with or without autism fidget, click pens, or tap their finger nails. An easy solution is a Rubik’s cube. It keeps their hands busy. It is still stimming. Other people crochet or knit.
You can have verbal stims as well. These consist of repeating words or noises. Typical people stim when they are nervous, afraid, angry, or experiencing any other stressful emotion. People are surprised to learn that these may be the same reasons people with autism stim. If the room is to bright or too loud people may go into sensory over load and stim.
So what can be done about this situation? The major difference between people with autism who stim and other people is that typical people stim in socially appropriate ways. By the time a person with autism needs to stim they are already involved and can’t figure out a socially appropriate way. Some people with autism generally won’t be able to figure it out, they need a tool or technique handed to them.
With my own daughter I first spent time teaching her that there was a time and place for stimming. Such as, she might be able to use some stims in the car but not in the store. Other stims were only for use at home. That worked most of the time. Other times I provided a small ball or small toy like the Rubik’s cube.
In more extreme situations you might want to try medication. Ultimately, I also learned acceptance. Stimming was part of her coping mechanisms. For a person with autism stimming was better than tantruming. And after all, we all stim. Some of us are just better at hiding it.