““Stimming” is short for “self-stimulatory behaviour”. This means that somebody is doing something to give themselves “sensory input”” -(from Ambitious About Autism, Note: please replace “children with autism” with “autistics/autistic children and adults” when reading their site. We prefer identity-first language, as there is nothing negative about being autistic, and it cannot be separated from us)
Also from Ambitious About Autism (please see the entire page via this link)
“Stimming is a self-created sensory reward loop: you use an ordinary moment, put it on repeat, and, basically, groove on it.
[Autistics] can stim on almost anything; it just needs to be something that appeals to them. However, common areas include:
Visual. Staring at lights; doing things to make the vision flicker such as repetitive blinking or shaking fingers in front of the eyes; staring at spinning objects.
Auditory. Listening to the same song or noise, for instance rewinding to hear the same few notes over and over. Making vocal sounds, tapping ears, snapping fingers etc.
Tactile. Rubbing the skin with hands or with another object, scratching.
Taste/smell. Sniffing objects or people; licking or chewing on things, often things that aren’t edible. Pica can overlap with stimming.
Verbal. Echolalia, basically: repeating sounds, words or phrases without any obvious regard for their meaning.
Proprioception. This means the body’s ability to feel where it is and what it’s doing…a lot of stimming involves things like rocking, swinging, jumping, pacing, running, tiptoeing or spinning – all of which give the body’s sense of balance and position a boost.”
Agony Autie is a good source of information!
Something that Annette and Chloe notice with many of our autistic friends and group/workshop attendees are harmful stims, such as skin picking and scratching (and this is called dermatillomania), which can lead to bleeding and scarring.
There are a number of reasons why many of us autistics have these stim behaviours. It may link to perfectionism (a need to remove spots etc., for instance), automatic responses when anxious, or something Annette and Chloe have noticed a connection between: being made to stop “odd” behaviours as children/adolescents etc., and the only thing you can have control over (and can be seen as “normal”) – your own body. This latter point is linked to autistic masking: autistic “acting” so as to appear “normal” and avoid social/family disapproval in order to fit in.
These stims feel good: they may help when feeling anxious etc. But sometimes we know that you may not like that you do these stims. We hope that we can help you understand why you do them, and also help replace them with non-harmful stims instead (e.g. during the stim session three, and by keeping your sense diary).
See the video below on dermatillomania by Cherry Blossom Tree – My Autism Experience: