Stims is short for “self-stimulating behaviors” which refers to a repetitive movements or sounds. I am going to share my personal experiences around stims, and all the other information has come directly from Autistics.
May Autistics will stim, however I think there are 3 main reasons why most Autistics stim;
1. Self-regulation– when everything is to bright, loud and fast in an environment your body can feel uncomfortable and strange. Your mind can feel painful and everything starts to feel too much, you can’t think straight. The stims allow Autistics to block out the difficult input, and replace it with a positive stim. How these stims look will be personal to every person. Here are some examples; hand flapping, finger wiggling, rocking, groaning, vocal humming.
2. Sensory seeking- many Autistics find happiness in sensory seeking, it can also be that the person is less sensitive. Here some seeking stims; spinning, jumping, vocal stims like shouting, singing.
3. Expressing yourself – Some Autistics use stims to show emotions, often stims can be used for happiness. However the same stim can then be used when anxious, sad, stressed, the appearance or sound of the stims will change. For instance slow rocking and the person’s head is up and they smiling, slow moment is soothing and shows the person is calm. If the person then has their head down and the rocking has become faster and groaning might of started, this is clear that the person is agitated.
I asked some Autistics to describe what their stims were like, how they felt and helped them;
Riko Ryuki~ Often it doesn’t feel like anything, it’s just something I do, that I don’t even realise I am doing unless I concentrate, and certainly something I can’t stop, like breathing, it’s just natural.
Bernadette~ Stimming is a super comforting thing that helps me with my stress and enables me to cope with life.
Jemma Martin~ I rock, leg bounce, visually I enjoy squinting to change my surroundings, listening to the same song on repeat for comfort. I like my house smelling of citrus as a way to have feedback that brings elation by smell.
Emily Black~ When I stim consciously it feels like it’s the only thing that can stop me becoming completely overwhelmed by my feelings.
Sanni Rosenberg~ Stimming is soothing and it helps me to process and make sense of the environment around me. Stims also help me to focus.
I can relate to many of these stims, I often tend to use stims when I am stressed or to concentrate. I tend to leg bounce, rub my hands together, pick my fingers and finger wiggle. My happy stims are vocal, I tend to do funny voices and sing (badly)
I want to be clear Autistics of all ages stim, and it’s not something that Autistics grow out of! adults need to stim as much as children. Stims are part of Autistics it’s natural and needed, don’t ask Autistics to stop their stims. Learn to understand why stims are happening, they should not be seen as problem behaviours. Stims are a way of Autistics communicating their feelings and at times making themselves feel happy. Stims allow Autistics to cope in environments that are totally overwhelming, without stimming in these situations this could lead to a meltdown. Please Respect Autistics stims!
Have fun stimming!
Girls Autistic Journey ♥