A video of Sonny talking and singing.
A video of Sonny talking and singing.
‘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.
Sonny is a man of simple pleasures.
I have noticed he finds happiness in the smallest or strangest of things.
Recently, he has been asking to go into supermarkets. (Click here to see) When we go in he makes a bee line for the DVD section. We can spend a good 20 minutes in there. He walks up and down the aisles reallllyyyy slowly. Maybe one will take his fancy. He will pick it up, look at it for about a minute and then put it on the floor. And carry on in the same manner. Eventually he chooses something fairly inappropriate (he loves a film rated 15 apparently) and gives it to me. I usually have to employ some distraction tactics to move him on without getting upset he hasn’t managed to take Prometheus home. We then mince on over to the fruit and veg section, where we talk about the colour of grapes, bananas, apples etc.
Last Sunday we ended up spending about half an hour sitting in a park getting very involved with a pack of balloons (click here) I had in my bag, along with various toys from Macdonald’s happy meals, bubble wrap, hand sanitizer, random bits of fluff, you know, the usual stuff a girl in her mid twenties carries with her. He said all the colours (confused between pink and red, but whatevs) and then tried to blow up all 4 balloons at the same time.
Every time I see Sonny I have some activity or outing planned, like a city farm/soft play etc, but sometimes he likes staring at DVDs. Sometimes he likes watching the taps run in the toilets. Sometimes he likes lying on the floor with his head in his hands.
It took about a year and half to get Sonny to say, ‘I want help please,’ using hand signs and words. He has become good at it now, but often uses it as a get clause when he can’t be bothered. Clever.
So you can imagine my surprise in a soft play centre the other day, when I was at the top of the slide and Sonny was trying really hard to climb up it (he had socks on). He tried and tried for about 10 minutes. He wasn’t really getting angry when he failed, just kept trying different ways until he eventually made it to the top. I felt a little bit mean videoing him from the top and not helping him out (Here’s the vid.)
Anything he does independently is a massive deal (he opened a crisp packet on his own the other day and I nearly passed out with excitement.) We have devised a sort of victory dance (it involves a sequence of very enthusiastic high fives, jumping, and shrill screaming) to celebrate anything he does on his own, which he seems to like!
I don’t want him to grow up thinking he can’t do something, just because he didn’t try, or because someone else did it for him.
I learnt how to ride a bike at the ripe old age of 19. I made a vague attempt when I was younger but couldn’t commit to the process. I gave up fairly quickly (never have been good with failure) and ever since just accepted the fact that I simply couldn’t do it. The only reason I can ride a bike now (only just, corners are an issue) is because I had some strong-willed friends at University.
Sonny needs more support than neuro-typical children obviously, but I want him to be able to ask for help in some situations, where he needs it, but I also want him to learn that when he puts his mind to something he can achieve it.
Who doesn’t love a trier, anyway?
Here is a collection of some our days out, in a very cheesy video!
When I was about 11 I randomly decided I wanted to stop holding my Mum’s hand. I was, of course, a sassy independent woman of the world. There was no way my Ma was going to cramp my style. I remember her being absolutely devastated.
Well karma has slapped me in the face. Sonny apparently found his independence far earlier than I ever managed to. He didn’t want to hold my hand. If I am totally honest its been happening for a while but I’ve basically been in denial about it. But he made sure it wasn’t going to happen. We went to Regent’s Park and he kept shaking my hand off (oh the rejection) so while we were there and it was safe I decided I would just trust him to walk on his own, ‘Sonny you can walk on your own if you are sensible’ etc. He has the tendency to run away. Totally without warning. Just bolts it. He’s rapid.
So obviously I was ready to sprint after him at any given moment. But he was SO GOOD. He stayed walking by my side the whole time, never ran off (ok once, but to be fair there was a pigeon that was very tempting, and as soon as I told him to come back he did.)
And on the way to Regent’s Park he said, ‘I want animals please’ (Here’s the video of me finally understanding what he was trying to say!) He recognised the bus route and remembered that there was a zoo there. As he asked so nicely we went to the zoo after. Obviously went to see the penguins first.
He also said, ‘Finding Nemo’ when we were in the aquarium and there was a fish that looked like Dory. SO CLEVER!
And then on the way home on the bus he asked to sit on my lap and gave me lots of cuddles. Even though he is growing up so fast and getting really independent (which is SO GREAT) I cant help but feel a little bit sad that he wont be a little boy forever!
Have I ever mentioned that Sonny has a twin?
Danny is on the left, and he also has autism. Yep. When they hold hands it’s like my brain can’t handle the cuteness level and I need to look away because otherwise my head will explode.
Their Dad and I took them both swimming on Sunday.
Sonny spent most of the time underwater, but they both absolutely loved playing with their Dad (he is much better at throwing them in the water. I need to get to the gym!)
It is so lovely to see how happy they are when they are with their Dad in the pool, and it is so lovely to see parents who are so involved and accepting of their children.
Sonny and Danny’s parents always seem positive and happy and loving with their sons. Having two obviously means there can be a lot of challenging behaviour at home, but they take it in their stride. I haven’t once heard them complain about Sonny or Danny’s autism, and how it effects their lives. I know it must be difficult for them, but their love for their sons means they don’t dwell on the hard times, they just focus on the positives. They love them both unconditionally for who they are and try to understand and help as much as they can, without trying to ‘fix’ them or change them.
I look up to them both, and I admire their strength to be so accepting and loving, despite the struggles they face.
Basically they are both ace.