The Importance and Benefits of Stimming for Children on The Autism Spectrum
Stimming, by definition, is the repetition of physical movements or articulated noises, such as tapping one’s foot or humming. Stereotypically, it is more commonly associated with people on the autism spectrum, although stimming can be a common behavior for people who are neurotypical as well. Stimming is often performed to self-soothe and, therefore, should not be discouraged if it poses no harm to themselves or others.
Why Stimming Is Important
For children on the autism spectrum, stimming can be a way for them to regulate and express their emotions, such as joy or excitement. In certain situations, it can also be in response to sensory overload and can help prevent meltdowns. Examples of common stimming behaviors in children with autism include, but are not limited to:
- Rocking back and forth
- Hand-waving or flapping
- Jumping or spinning
- Touching specific objects or textures
- The use of chewies or fidget toys
- Listening to a song or watching a show on repeat
- Repeating certain words or noises
Stimming can be a healthy outlet and an effective way for children on the spectrum to release built-up energy and receive beneficial sensory input. Stimming should never be discouraged based on social norms alone, as it can be a perfectly healthy and typical human behavior.
What To Do If Stimming Becomes Problematic
Not all children on the autism spectrum are the same, and stimming can present itself in different and sometimes harmful or problematic ways. If the act of stimming becomes a cause for concern due to the risk of harm to themselves or others, or if the behavior becomes disruptive to their daily routines, intervention and management may be necessary. Some examples of harmful stimming behaviors include:
- Head banging or hitting themself
- Punching or biting others
- Chewing on or swallowing dangerous items
- Excessive nail biting or picking at the skin
If these types of behaviors continue or get worse, you should make sure to consult with a medical practitioner right away for help and advice.
The Social Implications of Stimming
Although it is important to be on the lookout for harmful stimming behaviors, many stimming behaviors should be embraced, as they often serve as useful coping mechanisms. However, according to a 2019 research study, autistic adults reported experiencing social exclusion from neurotypicals due to stimming.
At the same time, rather than seek to eliminate or change the behavior, the participants of the study strongly believed in the fight for awareness and social acceptance. The study’s findings help to shed light on how much pressure is placed on children and adults on the autism spectrum to change their behavior to “fit in” in a neurotypical-dominated world.
Although children should be taught social awareness and to take other people into consideration when out in public, the act of stimming should not be discouraged or reprimanded out of fear of judgment or exclusion. Instead, it should be used as an opportunity to educate others on the importance and benefits of stimming for those on the spectrum.
Alpha School an private special education school in New Jersey
Our Mission at The Alpha School is to help all of our special needs students with the learning, social, language, and behavioral support they deserve. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student to becoming the best they can while providing a safe and nurturing educational environment.
We would be more than happy to discuss your child’s specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.370.1150, or request a tour of Alpha School of Jackson, NJ located just minutes off of Route 9 and Route 195 in Ocean County.
— John Gonzalez, Principal-Alpha School, Jackson, NJ