Wikipedia lists stimming as Self-stimulatory behaviour, also known as stimming and self-stimulation, is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders.
Everybody Stims, everybody has repetitive movements that they do all the time. Whether its playing with hair, cracking their knuckles or tapping their fingers, but for Aspies the stims aren’t so normal which makes them stand out. Aspie’s stims can be anything from rocking, hitting yourself in the head or else where. Moving their fingers in front of their face, or stimming with their hands in some way.
For me, I have a few. I play with my beard, I tap my thumb and my fingers together, and repeatedly wring my hands together. I tap my leg with my hand, make the OK symbol with my thumb and first finger when I’m talking and on occasion rock, either side to side on front to back.
Everybody stims though, it’s just NT’s Neurotypical people stims are much more normal so they don’t stand out. Where as aspie stims make us stand out quite a bit and we do get some funny looks, and you see people watching you stimming then this is usually followed by whispering and giggling with their companion.
Stims are calming, they are relaxing and used more often than not when feeling anxious, stressed or uncomfortable. There are always times that they don’t have the desired effect. They help but they do not alleviate the problem which can only be dealt with by not being in the situation that makes us feel uncomfortable.
Sometimes steps can be made to alleviate some issues with social situations for sensitivities to light, you can wear sunglasses, for sensitivities to sound, headphones is the best answer I’ve found for the cold, wrap up with coat, hat and gloves but even with all of these things, being around people and in social situations, trying to talk to people if it’s about what we like, no problem but if its small talk forget it. The anxiety is back and I pull out my stims to help calm me then look for an escape. A quiet part of the room, in the corner, out-of-the-way or completely out of the situation altogether.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love to go out within reason. I enjoy eating out and going for coffee but I do try my best to make it as stress free as possible so I like to avoid busy restaurants where possible. Unfortunately when going for coffee I’m usually OK with the place and as long as it’s not too busy or we have found a seat out-of-the-way.
There just always seems to be a drone of people talking that I just can’t deal with for too long. If we are there for a while I’ll return to my headphones or we leave, taking our coffee and drinking it on the move.
Even when I think I’ve had a good day and haven’t stimmed, these are usually days out with my daughter and grandson and I ask have you seen me stim today? I usually get told “yes Dad” as it has been noticed but nothing was said.