First off, for those who are wondering what on Earth “stimming” is, it’s shorthand for self-stimulating, and basically refers to a range of actions that Autistics often engage in such as hand flapping, making noises, rocking back and forth, etc.
These behaviours are, unfortunately, often viewed as disruptive and inappropriate, and therefore discouraged. I would argue they shouldn’t be, because stimming can actually be a very important and beneficial practice. So, what’s so positive about it? Here are just a few of the ways in which it can be awesome:
– For those of us who are Autistic, our thoughts and feelings can be very intense, to the point where it can feel like our bodies can hardly contain the energy it takes to process them. Stimming can act like our brain’s stabilizing thrusters, keeping us on course and focused. I personally find I do my best thinking when I’m stimming. In fact, I am stimming frequently as I write this blog entry.
– Similarly, when we are stressed, stimming can be like the safety valve on a boiler, allowing us to let off steam and prevent ourselves from becoming overwhelmed and having a meltdown.
– It can be exercise! For me, a good stim session is like a mini workout. Beyond just burning off a few calories by hand flapping or going for a gallop, the benefits of physical activity in terms of both mental and physical health are well documented.
– It feels amazing! When I stim, my brain is lighting up like fireworks, and I feel like hot molten chocolate is coursing through my veins. In my experience, there’s not many things quite as enjoyable.
These are just a few examples; I’m sure other Autistics could add more many more, and in fact, if you’re on the spectrum, I’d love to get your input on this.
In short, what might outwardly appear to be a meaningless act of misbehaviour is in fact a complex mechanism of self-regulation with remarkable benefits. It is my hope that as we work to build a more inclusive and understanding society, stimming will be accepted as just another way in which we humans interface with our world.