Friday, March 23, 2012

The Cause of Stimming: What’s your stim?

2012/03/22 By Karen

Yesterday I posted the right questions to consider about your child stimming continue to read....

Everyone has a stim
I play with my hair while chatting with a friend.
Maybe you bite your nails when you’re nervous or bored.
You may tap your fingers or pencil on a desk while you’re thinking.
I once knew someone who chewed on sticks of cinnamon bark, and I’ve noticed some who move their eyes in an unusual way.
I can recognize certain people from far away just by their distinctive movements. We all know someone who has an annoying stim like cracking their knuckles every 5 minutes or repeating a phrase over and over; or a socially unacceptable stim such as nose-picking or biting oneself.

The Definition of Stim
The word stim is short for self-stimulation. It is associated with several conditions such as deafblindness and intellectual disability, but most commonly with autism. My son’s neurologist calls it “autistic stereopathy.” It is also sometimes called “stereotypy.”
The DSM-5 includes stimming as part of the diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder: “Stereotyped or repetitive speech, motor movements, or use of objects…symptoms together limit and impair everyday functioning.” That right there is the difference between autistic stimming and typical stimming: when the stimming interferes with everyday activities and prevents learning, it is often a symptom of autism.

The Wrong Question
“How do I stop the stim?” That’s usually the first question parents ask when a young child discovers stimming. But it’s the wrong question.
First of all, no one can stop self-stimulatory behavior completely, because everyone does it anyway! Secondly, even if one stim can be removed, it will be replaced by another — and the next stim may be less preferable that the current one.
The most important reason not to eradicate stimming is that you may cause your loved one to withdraw more and more, and lose your opportunity to encourage healthy interactions.

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