Stimming means ‘Self-Stimulating Behaviour’. This covers any repetitive action or sound that a person does to get a physical or emotional input. Typical ‘stimming’ may include spinning, hand flapping, rocking or fiddling with specific items.
Why do people stim?
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- Some people stim to relax and feel calm. There may be something about the sound or movement that the person finds soothing. They may also feel calm because the ‘stim’ is very repetitive and predictable.
- Sensory overload can also cause people to stim. They may use the stim to reduce the effects of some sensory input. For example a child might make clicks, squeaks or loud noises in order to block out a sound they dislike.
- Other people may stim to get more sensory input if they are under sensitive. For example, someone who is under sensitive to their sense of balance may spin or rock vigorously.
- Sometimes people stim when they are anxious or stressed. They might soothe themselves by making a repetitive sound, flapping their hands or fiddling with a toy.
Should I stop my child from stimming?
No - Stimming is a form of expression. It is just as likely to show happiness or excitement as something negative. It’s important that autistic children can express themselves, stimming allows them to do this.
Some parents like to find out the reason for a particular ‘stim’ so that they can give their child a less obvious way of giving the same feeling. For example, a child who used to flap and loudly clap their hands a lot did this because they needed the proprioceptive feedback (feeling of where their hands were in space). We taught them to squeeze their fingertips quite hard which gave them the same ‘tingling’ feeling but without looking obvious and making lots of noise.
If the stim is dangerous or harmful in any way but the action seems to soothe your child, try to find something to replace the action but that gives the same feedback. For example, if your child bites people or themselves, or puts inedible items into their mouth, try giving them a biting ring or chewable jewellery. This will give them the same feeling but without hurting themselves or others.
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