‘Stimming’ is a term used to describe self-stimulatory behaviours.
Basically it is a repetitive behaviour that feels good.
Children with autism stim in a variety of different ways. It may be rocking, spinning, shaking their head, flapping their hands, repeating a sound or word etc.
For Sonny, he flaps his hands on his head, his leg, my head, my leg, a random chair, a pineapple, anything that is in reach. He loves it. Can’t get enough of it. Click here to see it (quite bad quality though!)
He sometimes stims when he really likes something (watching something on his iPad) but mostly when he is distressed (when I ask him to put his shoes on his own). So I kind of see it as him expressing emotions he can’t articulate through words- loads of happiness and excitement or loads of frustration and anger. It helps him when he is trying to manage his feelings of anxiety, fear or when there is too much sensory input (too hot, too light etc).
Some people think that stimming should be eliminated or modified. I am not those people. I believe that if it doesn’t hurt anyone else or himself he should flap, flap and keep on flapping. If it makes him feel good then I say crack on. Why should he adapt and change who he is just because it might seem a bit odd or different? When we are mincing around London and he flaps he does gets some funny looks (which we both completely ignore) but I never tell him to stop. I did once try and do it with him when he was half way through an intense flapping session just to see what he did. He stopped and looked at me quite disapprovingly, walked away from the crazy lady who looks after him and continued.
We all have different ways of calming ourselves down to some degree, sometimes without realising we are doing it. People who bite their nails, pace up and down, shake their leg, tap a pencil etc, they are all repetitive behaviours that in some way are calming or soothing. Most of us stim, autistic or not, it is just that some are more accepted by society I guess.
My stim? I play with my hair all the time. Well, not when I play ping pong. But a lot of the time.