Have you heard the term stimming, been told that your child stims or noticed your child engaging in repetitive activities? Have you ever wondered what exactly stimming is and why your child does it? This blog post will help explain stimming and how stimming may be observed in your child.
What is Stimming?
Stimming or ‘Self-Stimulating Behaviour’ can be described as repetitive movements or noises. Stimming is a common behaviour in individuals with autism and developmental or sensory processing disabilities. The type and amount of stimming vary amongst individuals, with some stimming every once and a while, and others stimming for a large proportion of their day.
What are the Different Types of Stimming?
Stimming can involve the use of some or all the senses. Some examples of common ways in which people stim can include:
- Auditory stimming: tapping on objects or their ears, covering and uncovering their ears, finger-snapping, listening to the same song, whistling, vocal sounds, humming, repetitive speech
- Tactile stimming: skin rubbing, hand movements such as hand flapping and finger tapping, scratching, twirling hair around fingers, flicking switches, hair pulling
- Visual stimming: staring or gazing, repetitive blinking, moving fingers or their hand in front of their eyes, eye tracking, rearranging objects, looking sideways, opening and closing doors
- Vestibular stimming: rocking, spinning, jumping, pacing back and forth, arching their back while sitting
- Olfactory/Gustatory stimming: biting nails, licking objects, smelling people/objects, placing objects in the mouth
Why does my Child Stim?
Stimming is often used as a comforting and enjoyable way to manage various big emotions, such as excitement, boredom, stress, fear, and anxiety. It is also often used to cope with feeling overwhelmed.
Stimming provides the child with a way to organise the sensory information they are receiving from their environment more efficiently in their brain, for example, stimming can help a child
calm their body by providing them with something to focus their attention on and reduce the sensory overload they are receiving from their environment.
Alternatively, stimming can help a child who is under-stimulated arouse their nervous system by increasing the sensory input they are receiving to keep up with the demands of their environment.
What is the Role of OT in Stimming?
Generally, if the stimming behaviour your child is performing isn’t dangerous or injurious, there is no reason to interfere with the behaviour as it is considered a safe coping strategy for your child to manage emotions and situations. However, if the behaviour is having adverse physical, emotional, or social effects on the individual, it may be necessary to intervene with your child’s stimming behaviours by finding replacement behaviours.
An Occupational Therapist can help to investigate the reason as to why your child is stimming and identify appropriate alternative sensory inputs to redirect your child’s behaviours based on their needs to help them cope with the information they are trying to process.
If you have any questions, concerns, or simply need to chat about your child’s stimming behaviours, give us a call on 02 9913 3823.