Why Stimming is a big part of my life
Written on 24th Apr 2013 by Alex Lowery
In this article, I’m talking about one aspect of autism, which is a huge part of my life and that is ‘Stimming’. Stimming is short for ‘self-stimulating behavior’. It’s basically some strange movements that people on the autistic spectrum do. Movements like hand flapping, rocking back and forth, spinning round in circles, and many other movements. This is something that pretty much all-autistic people do. The thing is; a lot of people who don’t have autism don’t understand why autistic people stim. They may make comments like, “Why does he keep flapping his hands like that?” Why doesn’t he just stop doing it?” Today, I’m going to be talking about what I’m thinking when I’m stimming, why I personally stim, and why I cannot help but do so. I originally wrote this article for Arman Kody’s site ‘Empower autism now’. You can view the original article here.
Parents educators and Psycologsits are still trying to stop children from ‘stimmimg’ I believe it is good to be taught how to manage ‘stimming’ but trying to stop it altogether is harmful and shows no understanding of the reasons why people like me ‘stim’. This article will help to explain why I stim and why it should never be stopped. Some people seem to think that if you can get rid of the outward behaviours of autism you get rid of autism. This is just not true.
When I’m stimming, I’m usually quite simply thinking about things. I may be thinking about exciting things that have happened in the past. I’ll be keeping loads of things that have been said to me in my head, and it’s a bit like my minds a video recorder. I’ll listen to what people will have said, and then I’ll imagine seeing them again, replaying these memories in my mind, and while I’m dong all of this, I’m stimming. I can’t really do it without making the movements. However, it only ever happens with things that have been said that are of interest to me. Other stuff completely by-passes me, and it’s as if I didn’t even hear it.
I may also be playing things in my head that didn’t really happen, but I’m imagining that they did. I may be a re-playing thing that I’ve seen in film’s, or in documentaries. I have an interest in fantasy stories like the Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia and Star Wars, and when I’m stimming; I may be imagining that I’m a character in one of those worlds.
I may also stim quite simply because I’m excited. If there’s something which I’m really looking forward to, or if something happens, which may be of interest to me, I’ll stim, but if I’m in the public of people I don’t know very well, I try to control my stims to the best of my ability.
Stimming is also something, which helps me focus on the things that I’m interested in. A lot of the things that I’m good at like my knowledge of autism (so therefore my gift for public speaking on autism) wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my Stimming.
When I was little, many people tried to teach me not to stim. My teacher in school tried to stop me from Stimming, and when I had therapy; my therapists tried to stop me from Stimming for a little while, but the fact is; I’ve never been able to stop Stimming. I’ve actually tried and it isn’t possible. It’s like OCD in the sense that it’s unavoidable, but as I said, it helps me to focus on things that I’m interested in, so therefore a lot of the things which I’m good at, I wouldn’t be good at if I didn’t stim.
Now, you’re probably thinking that I think Stimming is a really good thing to have, but the fact is that there are still negatives. Even though it helps me focus on the stuff that I’m interested in, it interferes with my focus on the things that I’m not interested in. For example: when I was being given school work, and being taught about the second world war, I kept getting distracted and couldn’t concentrate, because I was busy thinking about other things, stimming over them, and that is one rather big problem.
Another problem is that people who don’t know about autism aren’t going to be very accepting of people stimming. It could make autistic people a bigger target for bullying, or it could make people think that you’re having a seizure or something, (which has happened to me).
So the question is, is Stimming wrong? There are good things about it and bad things, but I still believe that it is not wrong, and should not be stopped. It helps people with autism have the gifts they do, it helps cope with stress and anxiety for a lot of people on the spectrum and it’s also (speaking for me personally) just a part of my life. Now; please note that even though I think it shouldn’t be stopped; that doesn’t mean I don’t think it should be controlled to a degree in my case. When I was little, I stimmed pretty much all day every day, and it did really interfere with functioning. I would not have learnt everyday things at all. I have had therapy to control my stimming to a degree, and I’m glad I’ve had that. I think that in order for me to get, as much out of life as possible, it needs to be controlled to a degree. If mine weren’t controlled, I’d likely still be doing it all day. Even though (in my case) it should be controlled, I believe every person on the spectrum should still be able to have his or her own time to Stim. Some of the autistic people I’ve heard about who managed to completely stop stimming have a lot of severe anxiety, which I believe partly comes from not Stimming, because they don’t have that way of de-stressing.
Thank you for reading. I hope it helped.
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A short animation about ‘stimming can be found here
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