Self Stimulatory Behavior
Information taken from Autism Research Institute
WHAT IS SELF STIMULATORY BEHAVIOR?
Self stimulatory behavior (stimming) refers to repetitive body movements or repetitive movement of objects. Many people exhibit repetitive body movements (i.e., twirling hair on your finger or rocking your foot back and forth); however, it is able to be controlled. Stimming often appears to be outside of an individual’s control and it is typically associated with autism.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF STIMMING?
Below are some stereotypical behaviors related to stimming.
- Visual: staring at lights, repetitive blinking, moving fingers in front of the eyes, hand-flapping, watching an object spin or move (i.e., fan)
- Auditory: tapping ears, snapping fingers, making vocal sounds (i.e., humming), listening to the same song or sound over and over, covering and uncovering ears
- Tactile: scratching or rubbing the skin, tapping or touching surfaces
- Taste: placing body parts or objects in the mouth, licking objects
- Smell: smelling objects, sniffing people
WHY DOES MY CHILD EXHIBIT SELF STIMULATORY BEHAVIOR?
Researchers have suggested different reasons for why an individual engages in stimming.
- One theory is that these behaviors may provide sensory stimulation that they need. The body may crave stimulation due to dysfunctional systems in the brain. Therefore, these behaviors are completed to excite or arouse the nervous system.
- These behaviors may release endorphins in the body, thus providing internal pleasure to the individual.
- Another theory is that these behaviors calm an individual. The environment may be too stimulating, thus creating a state of sensory overload. The individual engages in these behaviors to block out the over-stimulating environment.
HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD AT HOME?
There are many ways to help your child at home. You may want to change the environment if your child is over-stimulated or under-stimulated. Physical activity may also be beneficial to your child. The first step is to figure out and understand what triggers the self-stimulatory behavior.
OUR APPROACH AT KEY THERAPIES:
We will work with your family to identify the triggers of stimming. We will then help your child cope with these tiggers and redirect to more appropriate behaviors. The ultimate goal is to replace stimming with a more appropriate behavior that does not make the child stand out.