Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the ability to communicate effectively. An autistic child is unable to engage in a social environment, may exhibit repetitive behaviour or have limited attention span or interests. But autistic challenges differ from child to child. Each one has their own strengths and challenges. Stimming or repetitive behaviour that stems from anxiety is commonly associated with autism. Whether it is harmful or comforting remains a matter of discussion.

Stim Comes from Self-Stimulation

Stimming is not restricted to autistic individuals alone. Every individual is known to have a stereotypical behaviour that sets them apart. The word “stim” comes from self-stimulation. Some may bite their nails when stressed; others may incessantly drum their fingers on a desk or crack their knuckles over and over again. It is hard to stop stimming. In rare cases, even if it reduces or stops, it is usually replaced by another trait that may be less socially acceptable than the previous one.

In an autistic child, stimming is a clinical disorder that impairs social, occupational or other functional development. In extreme cases, it can interfere with everyday activities and come in the way of social interaction so the person becomes more and more withdrawn. 

Reasons Behind Stimming

Experts in the field of autism say that there are several reasons behind stimming. It can range from overstimulation, understimulation, managing negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, pain or even seeking comfort. Children, for instance, suck their thumb to unwind and comfort themselves. 

In an autistic child with aggravated stimming conditions, such as loud clucking noises every few minutes, banging the head against a wall, rapid eye movement or repeated twitching, stimming can lead to severe learning disability and affect interpersonal relationships. It can also lead to self-harming, chronic headaches, retinal detachment or infections. The best way to deal with stimming without trying to forcibly stop the child is by redirecting the child to other activities and reduce the stim naturally. 

Stimming can be Positive

On the bright side, stimming can help an autistic individual deal with an overstimulated mind and emotion overload without causing harm. It’s a way to let out overloaded emotions. Although it may bother people socially, high levels of internal anxiety in autistic children can calm them down.

It’s important to consult a professional to find out the best ways to manage stimming in an autistic child and improve their quality of life. A gentle, understanding approach can work wonders and even empower the child.

Shelley B. Ortved: Speech Pathologist

If your autistic child struggles to make themselves understood, it may further affect their social and emotional development or be associated with a severe learning disability. Help your child communicate by consulting Shelley B. Ortved, Speech-Language Pathologist who specializes in the speech and language challenges of childhood. Whether it is difficulty pronouncing certain sounds, stammering, or producing meaningful sentences, highly qualified Shelley B. Ortved is dedicated to working with parents to reduce communication challenges in your child with programs geared to the needs of your child, from preschoolers to adolescents. Browse through her website to learn more. There are flexible hours. New patients welcome