What is stimming?
Stimming is self-stimulating actions (usually involving repetitive movements or sounds) that are repeated in order to stimulate the senses. It is commonly talked about in neurodivergent individuals (Autism, ADHD, SPD), but in reality everyone stims in some way (pencil tapping, hair twirling, chewing on pens, etc).
Stimming can be:
Visual: Visual stimming is linked with the sense of sight and can involve repetitive actions such as: looking closely at items or out of the side of eyes, gazing at objects such as lights and ceiling fans, hand-flapping, object placement (lining up objects), moving hands and fingers in front of the eyes, turning lights on and off, or repetitive blinking.
Tactile: Tactile stimming is related to the sense of touch and includes actions such as: licking or kissing unusual items, skin-rubbing or scratching with hands or objects, chewing items, rubbing different textures, finger- tapping, teeth grinding.
Auditory: Auditory stimming involves the sense of hearing and sound. Examples of auditory stimming are: vocal sounds, such as humming, grunting, or high-pitched shrieking, putting sound-making objects close to ears, repeating sounds, tapping on objects or ears, covering and uncovering ears, repetitive speech such as repeating book sentences/ song lyrics/ movie lines.
Olfactory: Olfactory/taste stimming is the stimming using the sense of smell and/or taste. Examples of olfactory stimming are: smelling/sniffing items, licking/ placing them in the mouth, or tasting items.
Vestibular: Vestibular stimming involves the sense of movement as well as balance and it may include actions such as: jumping, rocking, spinning.
Proprioceptive. Proprioception is related with the person’s understanding of where they are and what they’re doing, in other words, is the ability that allows us to control limbs without directly looking at them. Proprioceptive stimming may involve throwing items, pressure seeking, pacing, and jumping.
or a combination
Why do people stim?
Stimming helps to self-regulate. It may benefit a person to calm down, gain control of their senses, communicate, destress, focus, decrease anxiety, express emotions, cope to prevent a meltdown, and many more. Someone can stim more when overstimulated or overwhelmed from feeling strong emotions (both positive and negative) and sometimes they do it just because it feels good!
Do’s and don’ts:
First of all, think about your own biases when you see a person stimming and accept it.
Discuss with the children the benefits of stimming.
Give sensory breaks and provide stim toys (bubble tubes, fiber optics, etc.)
Redirect stims that involve self-harm! (head banging, scratching, etc). Figure out the root cause, and take steps to prevent it before it occurs.
Stare, ask if a person is “okay”.