Stimming is one of the “stereotypical” autistic behaviors. Many people think of people with autism as folks who constantly flap their hand or rock back and forth. Those behaviors are called “stimming”, which is a motion that interacts with the senses to help calm an autistic person down (self calming) if they feel overwhelmed by the environment.
Stimming is harmless, and isn’t just hand flapping or rocking. It can manifest in many different ways, but again, is all harmless.
There have been a couple of cases where a child was reported to bite or pinch, but those behaviors can be redirected away from other people. Instead the child can pinch a pillow or even bite their own shirt. I actually do bite the collar of my shirt if I’m really freaking out, but would never ever hurt another person, I wouldn’t want the germs!
The behaviors can be “unusual”, and sometimes “freaky” to an observer who doesn’t know anything about autism, especially stimming which is different from the stereotypical hand flapping or rocking. I used to be made fun of for twirling my hair or rubbing my nose (another stim).
Unless it’s a danger to someone, stimming shouldn’t be interrupted.
I recall babysitting for someone who had an autistic child, who wanted me to try to get the child to stop rocking back and forth. That’s the wrong mindset, as the child is doing that as a way of calming down. Perhaps it can be redirected to less noticeable stimming. I’m no psychologist, so I wouldn’t know how to do that; I’m sure others would. But trying to put a stop to it will increase frustration and stress levels in the child and, as a result, probably increase stress levels in the adults around the child.
by Nikki J.