During the holidays when routines change we notice that our youngest son shows more stimming behaviour. This is a repetitive action that is used to reduce anxiety, help calm and cope with sensory experiences. It is known medically as ‘self stimulatory behaviour’. Examples of stimming include:
- Clicking the tongue
- Hand flapping
- Making repetitive noises
- Rocking back and forth
- Spinning around
- Watching a dvd/listening to the same song on a loop
Some people may consider these examples to be classic autistic traits and they often appear more unacceptable to the general public than if someone is chewing the end of their pen, which is also a stimming action.
Our experience of ASD is that our children tend to have an all or nothing approach to life, so when they use stimming behaviour, it is very intense and can last a long time, as they need to be able to cope with whatever situation they are in or relax after a day at school. Lots of children with ASD hold in all their emotions whilst they are at school and so when they come home, they vent their frustration on their loved ones, as this is where they feel most comfortable. This can be seen in the form of a meltdown or some children may choose to use a stimming action to reduce their anxiety. Our children frequently use both options, but when they choose to stim, our daughter will rock on a wicker rocking chair and sing the same song over and over again. Whereas, our son will make animal noises, spin around, hand flap or watch a dvd on a loop for hours until he is calm enough to join in again.
We often get odd looks when we are out and about and our children are stimming, but we have learnt to ignore this. It is far more important that our children can enjoy life to the full and if this means they receive strange looks from passers-by because they are flapping their hands or humming loudly, then so be it.