De-Mystifying Stimming

I have been asked by many parents, “How do I get my child to stop stimming?”

The short answer is: You don’t. Allow me to explain why:

Stimming is any repetitive movement that is calming to an individual. Stimming is a way that many people use to calm themselves. Autistic individuals tend to stim a lot.

Stimming is like any other coping mechanism in life, just more auditory and/or visually intense. The real fact is, everyone stims. It is the degree to which autistic individuals stim that causes a “problem”. Everyone needs ways to calm down. I doubt many neurotypical individuals out there would deny another from using calming methods such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, talking, venting, or exercising. I am suggesting that we add stimming to the list of tools that can help individuals to calm down from overstimulation, meltdowns, triggers, stressors, and dislikes.

I believe in guiding autistic individuals, and any other individuals who find stimming to be calming, to find positive safe ways of stimming that fit their wants and needs. I stim quite often, I especially love jumping. I jump at home on my big trampoline, inside on my mini trampoline, at the grocery store, and with friends. But, I have learned, through experience and the help of others, that jumping can sometimes be dangerous. Like, in an elevator, near ledges, on a weak surface, or when injured (like a sprained ankle, knee, or concussion). With that in mind, note that every autistic individual should have multiple stimming choices.

It can be very stressful to want to stim and not be able to do so in certain situations.

I feel so strongly about people viewing stimming as a positive tool and not a negative one, that I am making short videos of examples of positive ways to stim.

So, I ask that the next time your autistic family member, child, sister, brother, friend, loved one, or student stims, ask yourself:

Is this a safe way to stim? If so, perhaps encourage that stim during stressful times.

If it’s not safe, ask yourself what kind of stim(s) could replace this unsafe stim, that would fit their needs, wants and likes?

Anabelle Listic is a 27 year-old artist living is Seattle and is a film and digital photographer. Anabelle has autism and is profoundly visual. She is passionate about her art and about mentoring parents and kids living life on the autism spectrum. Find more of Anabelle’s work and insight by following her Blog, Twitter and Facebook.