Post by:

Michelle Artreche

Created on:

March 1, 2022

Stimming: Why and how you can embrace it

What is stimming? 

Stimming is short for self-stimulatory behavior. It is important to note that many people have a stim they use to self-regulate; it is not generally apparent to others. Stimming can be more pronounced with some neurodivergent folks due to heightened senses. 

When overwhelming situations get out of control, stimming is a way for people to gain a sense of balance again—it helps autistic folks cope!

Why do we stim? 

Stimming comes in all shapes and sizes—making it difficult to pinpoint the reasoning behind it. It is important to note that these behaviors are often used as a coping mechanism to provide extra sensory comfort when needed.

Stimming can show up in different forms when autistic folks might be trying to: 

  • Stimulate senses or decrease sensory overload
  • Adapt to an unfamiliar environment
  • Reduce anxiety level
  • Express their frustration, especially if they communicate differently
  • Avoid certain activities or expectations

What can stimming look like?

Stimming behaviors are widely separated amongst autistic people. More than one person can have multiple behaviors while others are impacted by one or two; here are a few examples of what stimming can look like: 

  • rocking
  • flapping hands or snapping fingers
  • bouncing, jumping, or twirling
  • pacing or walking on tiptoes
  • repeating words or phrases
  • repetitive blinking
  • staring at lights or rotating objects such as ceiling fans
  • continuously rearranging objects 

Many of these are visual stimming, visually repetitive movements, or actions.

Are there any risks?

Some stimming behaviors can be harmful—from head-banging, hair pulling, hitting to scratching. These could have health consequences; if you have a stim or know someone who has a stim that is self-harming, it will benefit you to seek professional help and find new healthy ways to cope.

How can you support folks who stim? 

Unless the stimming behavior is dangerous, there is no reason to stop it. It serves a purpose to make folks feel grounded and helps regulate feelings. When someone with autism feels a sudden rush of emotions, that energy needs to go somewhere—stimming is that outlet. 

You can support folks who stim by encouraging safe stimming. Many autistic folks can’t imagine their life without it. It’s important to create environments where stimming can be incorporated into their everyday life; it brings a consistent soothing element when it is most needed. 

We love several organizations that fully embrace and encourage stimming; be sure to check them out!

Stim your heart out, a set of concepts and beliefs that advocate an understanding of the benefits of the autistic culture of 'stimming' and establish it in mainstream society.
Old Soul Project is a family of sensory bracelets designed to help naturally relieve stress, improve focus, and train fine motor skills anytime, anywhere.

Social Cipher is an advocate in the neurodiverse community and stands to support, uplift, and empower all neurodivergent individuals. We understand that ABA therapy is still widely used with autistic folks. We believe that seeking out alternatives along with the combined support (depending on your child’s needs) whether it is speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, academic and family support will lead to a great substructure to build off of!

Interested in getting Ava for your therapy center or school for engaging, empowering social-emotional learning? Schedule a chat with us!

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