Sensory stimming – I will start with a warning
I am thankful for the question which has been submitted, but would like to begin this post with a warning. The post will discuss sensory stimming and explore the reasons for it. It will provide some strategies to consider when a sensory stim may be unsafe. However, it is not going to provide a magic bullet to stop stimming. In fact, my hope is that I will be able to help N to rethink her question.
So my warning is, if you are looking for the answer to stop sensory stimming, you may want to find another article or opinion. However, if you have come here with an open mind and are ready to start to change your perspective, I invite you to read on.
What is a sensory stim?
As some readers may also not be familiar with the term vestibular, or stimming, I will describe these first. Stimming is the name that is given to repetitive movements or actions that an individual with autism may do. Common stims include hand flapping, looking persistently out of the corners of the eye, watching spinning objects, and jumping. Some children may also have vocal stims where they repeat phrases or sounds.
What about vestibular stimming?
Vestibular relates to the our movement sense. You can read more about this sense here. Putting this together, vestibular stimming is a sensory stim that includes movement. This might be jumping or spinning. It could be rocking. Head banging is another example of a vestibular stim. Some children really like having their head upside down and will manoeuvre themselves into very interesting positions.
Why do autistic children (and adults!) stim?
In my experience sensory stims occur for three reasons.
An eloquent description of sensory stimming from an autistic perspective
In this video Agony Autie describes stimming and gives insight from a personal perspective. She explains that ‘stimming is a great way to combat sensory inputs’ because the stim helps to ‘block the inputs.’ So, it helps with regulation.