Self Stimulating Behaviour has been abbreviated to “stimming”. Like most things assigned to Autistics, stimming is actually a very human activity. Firstly, all humans Stim. Autistics are just really good at it and have turned it into an art.
Humans stim when we are in REM stage of sleep, that’s a repetitive eye movement while we process input. We all do it! Autistics obviously do this too but we also do some pretty cool stuff while we’re awake to help us process input from our environment. As Autistics we also take in more input than people who are not Autistic. Stimming helps us filter the massive amounts of input and take in what we need. So pacing, staring, humming can be examples of stims we do to process.
Some Humans smile to share their internal emotional state, some Autistics flap their hands, jump up & down or squeal to share their excitement and happiness. So those are examples of stims to express emotion.
We’re also really good at filtering through information and taking out the important bits so we basically learn on the spot. I used to doodle on my books at school, I’d learn and retain everything because that doodling was a stim that allowed me to take in information, filter it and store it.
Yes some stims are for soothing just like a baby sucks their thumb, that’s a repetitive action , a stim that soothes. As humans we also share our stims to soothe others. Have you ever rocked a baby in your arms or rubbed someone’s back to soothe them? Well that’s stimming!
We stim to recall information that’s stored by clicking our fingers, or using a verbal stim like ummm. Have you ever walked into the kitchen only to find you can’t remember what you came in for? You decide to walk back out and re enter to jog your memory. That’s stimming!
Stimming is a very human thing, it’s an external expression of internal processes or a human response to the environment.
If you’ve ever stopped to admire a view, or a colourful dress then that’s you visually stimming to take in an input that makes you feel good. It brings you pleasure so stimming can also be something we do to bring us joy.
Autistic kids (and adults) are not just doing mindless movements, we are far too complex for that. Unfortunately those that study us do not always understand that complexity or intelligence.
You can download our poster on stimming for free here