Senin, 30 Januari 2012



Many with autism, AS, ADHD, SID and TS are prone to ‘stimming’ (= repetitive, self-stimulating activities).


The majority are from a Stim-Quiz for Aspies that I helped design, followed by the most common reasons chosen by quiz-takers for each stim, plus some extra comments or quotes.

Common stims:

These are stims which most people probably do sometimes, but which hyperactive and nervous people tend to do more often.

- Bouncing leg or foot: “when thinking”; “to release excess energy”: “when restless, bored, anxious or excited.”

“Tapping my foot… a lot… when I’m nervous in social situations or whatever.”

- ‘samtoo’, male Aspie

“I have all this pent up energy so I’ve been doing what is my idea of stimming. Usually what I do is I put my foot right on my toe until my legs start to shake like crazy and I just do that like crazy until I feel some relief.”

- Gregory, adolescent Aspie from USA

- Doodling: “when bored.”

- Drumming fingers, tapping or clicking pen, fiddling with things: “when thinking”; “when bored.” Fiddling with something helps many people concentrate better.

“I guess it is when there is restrained motivation/energy in my body. It may be something fun/some idea that one cannot do directly, or when there are stressful and negative things going on. In the latter case it soothes the nerves somehow.

“To fiddle with something when I’m listening or concentrating is also helpful. That’s why I always have my knitting with me. Then I get sweaters instead of broken pencils or picking my fingers to the bone.

“But it is also just generally nice and fun to fiddle. I often do it simply because it’s nice and fun/interesting.”

- Emma, Aspie from Sweden

- Chewing or sucking on pencil, toothpick or other object: “when thinking.”

“I like to chew things and sometimes do this without realizing what I’m doing, pens etc bite the dust”

- Julie, Aspie from England

- Biting nails: “when bored”; “when anxious, nervous or stressed.”

Semi-odd stims:

These are stims which some do as children but which may some on the neurodiversity spectrum may keep doing as adults.

- Sucking thumb: “for comfort”; “to calm myself.”

- Cracking joints: “when bored”: “for pleasure.”

“I’ve always cracked joints. Fingers, toes, elbows etc. Crack my knees too, and the heel tendon. It is a satisfying feeling to make an enjoyable crack.”

- ‘Moggy’, male probable Aspie from Sweden

- Clicking teeth or tongue: “when thinking”; “when anxious”.

“I have tongue clicking when I’m nervous around people, I have to walk around when I’m nervous, and I stamp my feet and twitch my neck when I’m having a really bad time.”

- O.J., adult Aspie from Norway

- Biting, peeling or picking cuticle or fingertip: “when bored.”

“I hate an unsmooth fingernail’s edge, and when I found I have one I usually rub it on my teeth if I can’t find a scissor, but I don’t chew fingernails, I chew around the root of them, biting off slivers of skin if needed, never to the point of bleeding though.”

- ‘Zhaozhou’, male Aspie from Italy

- Picking nose, skin or scabs, peeling skin flakes: “when bored.”

“I’ll peel off half-loose skin flakes and have a tendency to want to pick scabs (even if I usually can stop myself there), but I thought this was true of everyone…? That you have sort of an instinct to try and remove things that don’t belong to the body (and thus could be e.g. a parasite).”

- ‘inv’, male Aspie from Sweden

- Pulling hairs from head, face or body: “when bored.”

“Pulling little hairs until they break is very satisfying.”

- ‘weasley’, female Aspie from Sweden

- Rubbing hands, arms or thighs: “for comfort”; “when anxious, nervous or excited.”

“I rub the tops of my thighs sometimes…helps me concentrate.”

- ‘Sakhmet’, female Aspie

- Snapping fingers.

- Twisting hands/fingers: “when anxious, nervous or bored.”

“I usually either drum my fingers on my legs, chest or head depending. Other times I will lace my fingers through each other and rapidly move one wrist down and the other up then reserve and on and on. For me at least it is a way to burn off excess energy. There are times when so much builds up that I feel like I’m going to go wild. So I either stim, run in place or work out to burn it off.”

- William, Aspie from USA

- Wiggling, fingers, toes or feet: “when thinking”, “when bored or restless.”

“I wiggle my fingers and toes, usually to some kind of rhythm that only they know, simultaneously. I used to think that maybe it was because I was hyper and if I am sitting still it gives me a way to be active without anyone noticing.”

- Anne Marie, ADHD/Aspie from USA

- Pacing: “when thinking; when anxious.”

“I discover more and more stress-related behaviours of me now (like rhythmically stretching the skin on my throat when I’m nervous, e g when I’m walking where lots of ppl are). Pacing up and down is my ‘speciality’ though, I think I should add that under ‘hobbies’ ”

- ‘maYa’, Aspie

- Talking to oneself: “when thinking.”

“Leg bouncing, and a lot of talking to myself…I think out loud especially when I’m working.

- ‘Sakhmet’, female Aspie

“Sometimes when nervous I may absently repeat a phrase aloud that I picked up somewhere and if I’m not careful I may do that in public, in which case people might think I am talking to myself.”

- Tom, Aspie from USA

”I’ll mutter to myself as random thoughts pass through my head, almost as though I’m tasting them.”

- ‘T-rav20’, male Aspie

Odd stims:

These are stims more typical of classical autism.

- Biting oneself, others, or some object. Some autistcs really enjoy the sensation of biting into something a bit bouncy, probably for the same reason as a puppy, though not quite as socially acceptable… Some bite themselves or others when frustrated.

- Licking or tasting things. Perhaps identification of objects by taste or exquisite enjoyment of certain tastes and textures. This is something you’re supposed to grow out of soon after infancy but some may retain this behaviour for longer than what is considered appropriate. More socially acceptable ways of oral stimulation are – or have been until recently – smoking toxic tobacco sticks, chewing gum or nibbling on addictive sweets.

- Smelling objects, sniffing people. Having such a keen sense of smell that certain smells cause intense pleasure – or nausea if it’s a bad odour – and may give valuable information about things and people, just as it does for animals. According to Temple Grandin many autistics with visual or auditory processing difficulties, smell and touch may provide more reliable information about their surroundings than either vision or hearing.

“I used to lie on the floor at home when I was a child, and smell the safe smell of the carpet; pretty smell-oriented in other words. My son sniffs on everything new in order to find out if they are of any good, or on things he’s been away from to check that they still smell the same.”

- Emma, Aspie from Sweden

“Smells have always been a big thing for me, when I was younger I could not walk down the washing powder aisle of the supermarket without having a bad reaction; my mum just could not understand it. I also have a habit of sniffing things, my mum always had a certain scent that I could recognise, in fact I have noticed everyone has their own personal scent, as long as they do not overpower it with perfumes and the like.

“If someone gives me something I have a habit of smelling it. I love the smell of certain print and love the smell of new books. I bought a new diary from a shop called ‘Aromatics’, which sells aromatic oils, the diary smells gorgeous, good job they don’t charge extra for the smell ”

- Julie, Aspie from England

“I need a lot of scents and parfumes, as I stim on them. Always have incense in the house, too. Couldn’t go anywhere without having the chance to use scents.”

- Arania, Aspie from Germany

“I like to smell between the pages of all my new books… I find it very comforting!!!”

- ‘Sakhmet’, female Aspie

- Touching things. Some who are tactile learners really enjoy the feel of certain textures, while finding others repulsive.

“I take a little detour to work in the morning so I can walk through a park and feel some of the trees there. Leaves are good, but the bark is even better. Stones also work fine, preferably with moss on. I just like the structure of bark, leaves, leather, stone. Not metal, though. *yuck*

“As a child I liked going into people’s closets and finger on clothes, especially coarse fabrics with structure, or wall paper. Balls of yarn and old crooked nails I also liked.”

- Matilda, Aspie from Sweden

- Flapping hands: “when excited.” (Great, harmless way of relieving excess positive or negative energy!)

“Whole-hand movement, hinged on the wrist muscle. Either up-down or sideways. It burns off excess nervous energy. I do it occasionally, but find an arm stim hinged on the elbow better. We get nervous energy because we don’t filter the incoming information from our senses but try to absorb everything.”

- Maurice, Aspie

- Pressing, crossing or rolling eyes: “when thinking, stressed, distressed or overwhelmed.” May also come from eye-strain, Scotopic Sensitivity or other visual problem. If done gently, it is actually a great way of exercising the eye-muscles and preventing the need for glasses. I’ve heard that Chinese children are instructed to do it every day in school.

I used to do this as a kid just to amuse myself when I was bored and had nothing else to fiddle with, e.g. on a train ride with granny.

- Ing, site-author

- Repetitive blinking or moving fingers in front of the eyes. Perhaps stress, visual experiment or to induce a trance. Temple Grandin suggests it may be an indication of visual processing problems.

- Rocking (back-&-forth or side-to-side): “to calm myself”; ”for comfort”; “when thinking”; “when bored, excited, overwhelmed or overstimulated”.

“I rock from side-to-side a lot when I’m feeling upset or overwhelmed.

- ‘Sakhmet’, female Aspie

“I found out that I rock, and I didn’t used to notice it until my bf and I would hook up with our webcams and he noticed that I would rock back and forth. I think I only do that when I am thinking hard.”

- Anne Marie, ADHD/Aspie from USA

- Spinning an object or watching a spinning, blinking or glittering object: “when bored”; “for pleasure”; “when thinking”.

“Well I liked spinning things I’d open up an umberalla turn it upside down and spin it, sometimes I would put things on it to watch them spin off and then do it over and over again, rather telling I suppose Oh and I loved wheels spinning and washing machines, even the old twin tubs, top loaders. ”

- Julie, Aspie from England

“I can’t get enough of looking at things that shine; prisms, rainbows, water trickling in the sun, etc. it is so nice to have water in glass bottle on the window sill, then you can see how they shimmer… besides, one can always excuse it by them being good water bottles for one’s plants! ;-D

“When little hoodlums have been at it and broken glass on the pavement I become totally fascinated and can stand watching them shimmer for ages. Almost got ran over once, because I stopped in the middle of the street without thinking, lol! I actually have some pieces of broken street light here in a bowl. They glittered so beautifully that I had to pick some up and take them home…

“And then I like to touch soft things; soft yarn, nectarines (I can stand stroking nectarines in the store without thinking about it), velvet, etc.”

- ‘weasley’, female Aspie from Sweden

- Spinning in circles: “for fun; when happy.” In some cases, an instinctive way of self-treating vestibular Sensory Integration Dysfunction. If so, it should be incouraged.

“I still like to spin but did it even more as a child. I think it had some sort of relaxing effect on me but would drive others crazy.”

- ‘ljbouchard’, male Aspie from USA

- Tapping ears: “when thinking.” May also a way of distorting incoming sounds and creating cool sound effects, or blocking out disturbing ambient sounds.

- Toe-walking: “for fun”; “other reason”. In some cases it may be physically painful to put down one’s whole foot on the floor due to extreme sensitivity or other physical problem. May be a way to get a feeling of being lighter, and to make the tedious task of walking more fun or bearable.

“I walked on my toes all throughout my childhood. At first, I was trying to imitate cats, but it felt good so I did it all the time. I suspect it could be the reason I have big calf muscles.”

- Kim, female Aspie from USA

“I do toes when barefoot because I don’t want my feet to feel dirty. Plus cold floors freak me out.”

- ‘Fivecents’, female non-Aspie from USA

“I walk on my toes a lot when barefoot. To me it just makes me feel lighter and faster.”

- ‘Zara’, male Aspie from USA

“I still walk on my tippy toes when im extremely excited about something…”

- ‘age1600’, ASD female from USA

I didn’t do this as a child but I had a period in my early 20’s when I wore ballet shoes everywhere and used to bounce around on my toes rather than walk. I felt wonderfully light! Although once at work, as I rounded a corner, I bounced into the CEO who was holding a cup of coffee…

- Ing, site-author

Professional theories about stims:


By Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D., Center for the Study of Autism

“Researchers have suggested various reasons for why a person may engage in stereotypic behaviors. One set of theories suggests that these behaviors provide the person with sensory stimulation (i.e., the person’s sense is hyposensitive). Due to some dysfunctional system in the brain or periphery, the body craves stimulation; and thus, the person engages in these behaviors to excite or arouse the nervous system.

“One specific theory states that these behaviors release beta-endorphins in the body (endogeneous opiate-like substances) and provides the person with some form of internal pleasure.

“Another set of theories states that these behaviors are exhibited to calm a person (i.e., the person’s sense is hypersensitive). That is, the environment is too stimulating and the person is in a state of sensory-overload. As a result, the individual engages in these behaviors to block-out the over-stimulating environment; and his/her attention becomes focused inwardly.”

“Researchers have also shown that stereotypic behaviors interfere with attention and learning. Interestingly, these behaviors are often effective positive reinforcers if a person is allowed to engage in these behaviors after completing a task.”

My comment: All three sets of theories sound plausible. But if so, it is most likely a harmless way of ‘self-medicating’ on these endorphins that one really needs in order to stay sane. To a hypersensitive person, daily life is often so physically or emotionally painful that every possible stress relief available is of tremendous help. Much safer than medication, isn’t it? Many with AS/ADD/SID describe how easily they get overstimulated and therefore need to stim to relieve the stress. In which case stimming is excellent; easy to do, always at hand and absolutely free! Perhaps that’s the problem with it? That it doesn’t require some medication or expensive intervention technique that someone else could get rich from?

That last paragraph sounds very manipulating and inhumane to me – like doggy training. Why is stimming so unacceptable when it is so very useful (possibly even essential) to the person who does it?

“‘Okay, we have determined that it is pleasurable and makes you more relaxed, now we want you to stop.’ Does anyone else see a problem with this logic? I haven’t done lots of study in this area, but it seems like very few stims are destructive or harmful or self injuring. Most of the time people want us to stop just because they find the behavior annoying or embarressing.”

- Ilah, probable Aspie from USA

With the possible exception of sniffing or biting other people, and perhaps making noise when in the same room as others, I don’t see the problem with stimming. Those who stim would not stim if they didn’t have a legitimate need to do so. If not permitted to stim, one is forced to keep the stress/excess energy inside instead, where it will most likely cause health problems or build up until it causes an uncontrollable eruption. Which is worse?

What can be done if the stimming is too disturbing to others, is to ask the stimming person to try and save it for when they are alone – if possible. Many adults with AS/ADHD/SID/TS stim mainly when at home/alone and try to keep it in check in public, or do it very discreetly, but not everyone is able to exert such self-control. Some would probably study and work much better if they had their own room where they could regulate the lighting, hyperfocus without distraction, and stim all they need.

Tidak ada komentar: