Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Autism 101 - Why Do Autistic Children Stim?

Understanding self stimulating behaviours in autistic children can be very difficult. To us it just seems like they are doing the same behaviour over and over again. But to them, stimming is so much more. It is a way for them to understand their world and maintain some control over it.

Stimming is their way to keep control in a world they don't understand. Here's a way to look at it. Know when you're intently working on something and you don't notice the world around you because you are concentrating so hard on what you are doing. Stimming is the same thing for autistic children. Because so much of their world is out of their control, one way to regain a little bit of control is to get lost in their own little world.

By doing the same behaviour over and over, they are entrancing themselves and removing the upsetting factors they don't understand or have control over.

So stimming is a bad thing then? Aren't we supposed to try as parents to keep them grounded in this world?

Yes and no. Stimming can be dangerous if it makes it so they are so unaware of the world around them, that it puts them in danger. Otherwise, no it isn't a bad thing. It is a calming thing. It is a way for them to cope with the world around them and the things they don't understand.

Imagine if you will for a second that you are talking to a person. You are speaking proper English that anyone should be able to understand. But instead of responding to you in English, you just get blah blah blah back. So you try saying it in a different way, and the response comes back again as blah, blah, blah. No matter how hard you try to communicate your wants or needs to this person in the only language you know the only response you get it that blah blah blah.

Now imagine if day in and day out that was how you were responded to. Imagine how frustrating that would be. How upset you would be because of it.

Now imagine the person saying blah, blah, blah back at you, and instead of getting upset or frustrated by their response you do something you know will calm you down, like pacing back and fourth across a room. Now you're concentrating on your pacing and have forgotten about Mr. Blah, blah blah. You've just taken a look into the world of your autistic child. Your pacing to regain some control against Mr. Blah, blah, blah, is their stimming behaviour. Would you want someone to take that away from you? Well, neither does your child.

Having autism can alter the way the world looks and interacts around you, stimming is just one of many ways for you to understand the world around you, and bring things back under your control. Instead of reprimanding the behaviour, we need to look at what is causing it. For more useful tips on autism, click here!

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