ARCHIVED “Stimming, and I hope you like stimming too”: Declare your Stims!


ARCHIVED: Please note, whilst every effort has been made to update blog posts, this blog post has been archived and may present outdated and incorrect information and terminology. 

Stimming, or self-stimulatory behaviour as it is more formally known, is as common in the world of autism as wedding dresses installed with fairy lights are on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. Stimming is when someone repeats specific behaviours, such as flapping, rocking, spinning or repeating words and phrases. Whilst most people occupy their time with some form of Stimming, in its extreme form it is a key indicator of an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, as listed in the Diagnosis Statistics Manual (DSM IV). Surprisingly little is known about its function, but the most obvious theory is that in those who are hypersensitive, it may provide some form of control over overwhelming sensory input. For example, rocking whilst in a night club may help to control and block out some of the loud noise, smells and heat. Alternatively, in those at the opposite end of the scale who are hyposensitive, it may actually increase arousal.

Almost everyone has fiddled with their hair when nervous on a date, repeatedly stirred their drink with a straw whilst in a bar, tapped the desk whilst bored in class, or bitten their nails before a test. But what makes stimming different for an autistic person is the quantity of stims and the obsessive nature of them. I have always been known by my friends and family to have a lot of ‘quirks’, however, as one of my very blunt housemates once pointed out: “Hannah, you have to many quirks for them to be quirky”. On their own all my little stims seemed almost normal, but put together, the obsessiveness and quantity of them was somewhat odd. Stimming was the last autistic trait I accepted after my diagnosis, but a key one in overcoming my anxiety. I had spent a long time denying myself of my stims and instead being overwhelmed by situations and having recurrent panic attacks.  I have since checked with several of my best friends and partner with regards to my stims, and apparently they’ve been very obvious ever since I’ve known them. So no more hiding, it’s time to declare our stims!

Top 5 Stims

  1. Scratching Silky material

       2. Making odd sounds at the back of throat when it’s too quiet or I’ve not spoke for ages, which promptly make my partner jump in the middle of the night.

3. Repeating words, songs and phrases.
You may only find it funny the first time, but I will still find it funny after the 100th time. Yesterday’s record was a 10 minute rendition of the first two lines of “Karma Camelion” by Culture Club, whilst trying to cook dinner.

4.Watching the washing machine go round and round and round and round…

5. Muscle Twitching
Whilst mentally drawing out the edges of objects in a room and/or buildings. Ideal for long car journeys and boring meetings/lectures.  Also nose twitching/bum and leg twitching until both sides feel even, although this latter method is more noticeable than the former.

So now I’ve confessed mine, what are yours!?

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