My son’s on the autism spectrum. He’s considered high functioning, but not quite Asperger’s. (Though I guess with the new DSM V, he might technically be removed from officially being ‘autistic,’ but who cares.)
One of the many things that people with autism do is self-stimulate, or stim, though I almost think ‘self-distract’ would be a better description. Stims are activities that a person does to help regulate sensory information. Importantly, I think it’s a response to being overwhelmed by inputs from the senses. Hand flapping and rocking are common stims.
My son, while appearing mostly ‘normal,’ occasionally flaps his hands and hops, but more often screeches when the inputs get to be too much.
A loud dinner conversation results in screeching and peeping. He gets quiet once everyone else stops talking. Sometimes if he gets really agitated, he’ll start hitting (himself or others).
I’ve known him for so long (his whole life *chuckle*) that I don’t even see these things as unusual anymore. I’m always a little stunned to hang out with a ‘normal’ nine-year-old and see that they don’t do any of these things.
Stims vary from person to person. I’d guess that all people engage in them at some level. (Right now I’m wiggling my legs like crazy, for example.) Those on the spectrum need stims to function.
People who don’t deal with autism every day don’t understand stims. Many don’t understand why they can’t just stop. Even I struggle with that sometimes and get very frustrated with my son.
We would all benefit from learning more.
On Thursday, October 17, 2013 (7pm – 9pm EST), there will be a Twitter event celebrating what stims are to those who need them.
Join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #LvngStm.
There will also be a Twitter live chat at #LIASChat.
Go here to learn more and please share this around!