Day 94: You “Stim”, I “Stim”, We All “Stim” …

Day 94 S-366-LYDoG:

“Stimming” …

It used to drive me crazy when Sean would stim. It was embarrassed by the looks we would get when he got going in public. The arm flapping, the finger flicking, and lately he’s got this exaggerated head rolling thing he does while opening his eyes as wide as he can. He says his eyes need fresh air … I chuckled pretty hard at that one.

StimYou may not even know what stimming is. Basically the word “stim” is a sort of short-hand or slang for the term “self-stimulation.” It includes behaviors like hand-flapping, or repeating a certain phrase over and over; basically we all stim.

You probably didn’t know that but, its true.

Do you bite your nails, tap your foot, chew your pencil, even chew gum? These and many other behaviors like these are considered “self-stimulation.” The difference for those on the autism spectrum is that, often, the “stims” they use are considered socially unacceptable. I scratch my head at this sometimes because if it is all right to tap your pencil or your foot then why is flapping your hands so taboo?

I don’t get it …

We use these repetative behaviors as a way to manage our emotions. Anything from fear and anxiety to extreme excitement and happiness can bring “stims” out in any person. For someone like Sean, these “stims” get bigger and more fantastic as his emotions become more heightened. For example, the last time we went to Disneyland he spent a good amount of time jumping up and down flapping his arms while holding them close to his body like a baby bird. You might not have recognized it as a “stim” at first except that he did it over and over and over everywhere we went in the park for the next several days.

As I mentioned before, it was a little embarrassing. Yet, while this was socially unacceptable to most people we encountered, they didn’t think twice about the social inappropriateness of blatantly staring at my son. I didn’t attempt to stop him because I figure that I’d rather have him flapping and hopping like a baby bird than start him on a public meltdown. (We choose our battles, right moms?) Anyway, I figure as long as he’s not hurting himself or others what’s the harm? Other than been gawked at by strangers, there really isn’t any. Then, I took it one step further and decided that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

So I did …

Yep I started hopping and flapping, then my younger son joined in. I bet we were a sight to see and you know what? I don’t care.

In that moment I was actually supremely grateful for the “stimming”; it helped all three of us cope with our heightened emotions. It was one of the most freeing experiences of my life to join in. It certainly got rid of the excess energy and adrenaline I had pumping through my system from stress so, I’m all about “stimming.”

Take that, socially acceptable police. If Sean needs to air his eyeballs out, more power to him, I’d rather him do that than gawk and stare impolitely at someone who is acting a little different.

Stina

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