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  • Writer's pictureChristine McCarty

What is Stimming?

Stimming is a popular word when it comes to autism, but why? Before we answer that question, let’s first outline exactly what it is. According to WebMD, “Stimming is characterized as repetitive motions that you may use to help you cope with emotions.”


Examples of stimming include:

Biting your nails when you feel anxious

Twirling your hair when you feel bored

Flapping your hands when something excites you‌

Jiggling your foot when you are concentrating


While many people self-regulate with a stim, it’s not always obvious to others. Typical people may not engage their stim often or know how to control the behavior. For people with autism, stimming is much more pronounced. This is because people with autism often experience heightened sensory perception. Noises, scents, lights tend to be more intense and consequently distracting where stimming becomes a more frequent coping mechanism.


For Addy, her stim comes in many different forms. She lines up toys which helps her organize play when she is by herself. Interestingly enough, when Addy is playing with others this stim never manifests. I’m still unpacking this nuance trying to understand the deviation in behavior.


Addy also flaps her hands in excitement and often repeats questions three to four times. It seems the flapping soothes her or at a minimum serves as her expression of the excitement. That said, her repetition of questions is still mostly a mystery. Does she repeat questions because she just wants to talk but doesn’t necessarily know what to say? Or perhaps asking/hearing the answers multiple times assists her in processing the information.


There are so many unknowns as to why someone on the spectrum experiences heightened sensory perception or why they stim. A simple way to look at it is stimming serves a purpose. No matter what the situation, stimming is a way to regulate our feelings or ground ourselves in the moment. When someone with autism feels a sudden rush of emotions, that energy needs to go somewhere. Stimming provides an outlet for that energy and allows for continued functionality. So go on stimming!


Much love,

Raising Addy

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