Sunday, March 25, 2007

What is Stimming?
One of my responders asked me, "What is stimming?" Let me explain it how I understand it and then I will look it up in an official site and see how they compare.
Stimming to me is a stimulus which makes the child feel some pleasure or relief. Many children self-comfort themselves, even if they are typically developing. Some carry a blanket everywhere. Some adults twist their hair.
There are people with autism who have noticeable stims. One that everyone is familiar with is rocking the body back and forth rhythmically.
Another that you may have seen is commonly called flapping. The person with autism moves his or her hands in front of the eyes. To me, it looks similar to the moves that people in gospel choirs make when they are singing and gesturing with their hands. Forgive me, if this is incorrect, as I am only mildly aware of how a gospel choir singer moves while singing.
My son flaps his hands only occasionally, when he is really excited. He doesn't rock. When I talk about Alan's stims, I am talking about verbal stims. This is also called by other experts echolalia and still others call it scripting.
Whatever one calls it, the person with autism repeats something over and over and over. Many people are familiar with this kind of stuck verbal expression as something that elderly people may do, especially those who are fading into dementia.
In my son's case, he is comforting himself in some way or making himself feel on top of a situation, or just amusing himself, I think.
He will come out with something from a video or something from Jib Jab (if you have never seen this online, you may want to check it out. Some people find it hilarious commentary. Others will be appalled.
At any rate, when Alan is stimming, it is a verbal repetition.
As promised, I will give an expert definition of stimming. This one is from The Oasis Guide to Asperger's Syndrome, p. 25 under the heading Stereotypies:
"Stereotypies (sic) are repetitive motor movements. Often referred to as 'stims' (self-stimulating behavior), examples are hand flapping, finger flicking, walking on tiptoe, rocking, spinning, twirling, chewing, pulling and picking.. Most of us exhibit some type of repetitive behavior....
In children with AS (autistic syndrome), however, these behaviors are different. They tend to be less socially acceptable and more intense, in both their execution and duration. Sometimes, in the midst of stimming, a child seems to be totally out of reach. Parents of children with AS have noticed that their children's stims seem to increase when their child is under stress. Whether they should intervene to stop a child's stereotypies or stims through behavior modification is not clear. It has been suggested that the stereotypies release a child's stress and that if one is eliminated, another will appear in its place...
So, we try to get Alan to say something new. We try to get him to keep Jib Jab to his own room and not anywhere else. We talk with him about what things are inappropriate to talk about in public. It sure does work to get me to suppress swear words when I would love to let loose with them. I don't want to hear them said back to me in some public place.



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