Q&A: “What is Stimming?”

This is the first installment in an ongoing series in which I will post answers I have previously given to questions relating to autism. My hope is to provide quick and easy answers to common questions about ASD. This question and my answer has previously been posted on a question answering website.

Question: “What is stimming? I’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s, but I don’t think I ever do that.”

My answer:

“You do. Everybody stims, even non-autistic people.

Stimming is short for self-stimulation. Stimming is making repetitive actions for the purpose of stimulating one or more of the 25 or so senses.

Some examples of stimming that are common in the neurotypucal population include:

  • Bouncing your leg up and down while seated.
  • Twirling your hair
  • Biting your fingernails
  • Popping your knuckles
  • General fidgeting
  • And others. Anything that’s somewhat repetitive and stimulating.

Some examples of stimming that are often times thought of as being an autism thing (though I’ve seen neurotypicals do many of these under extreme circumstances):

  • Flapping your hands
  • Rocking back and forth
  • Chewing on things
  • Pacing (even when not anxious, upset, etc.)
  • Smelling foods before eating them
  • A fixation with moving objects
  • A fixation with touching/seeing moving water
  • Spinning in circles
  • Wringing your hands
  • Echolalia (repeating a word or phrase someone else said over and over)
  • Palilalia (repeating a word or phrase that you said over and over again)
  • Playing music at high volumes (even people with noise sensitivities in other circumstances may crave loud music, including me. This is also common among neurotypicals).
  • Touching objects to feel their texture
  • Hitting yourself
  • Biting yourself
  • Making repetitive noises
  • Humming
  • General fidgeting (again, there’s a double standard here it seems)
  • And many many many others.

Hope this is clarifying. Stimming is a natural human behavior, but autistic people tend to stim in non-typical ways that other people find obtrusive, inappropriate, etc.”

2 thoughts on “Q&A: “What is Stimming?”

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