Saturday, 6 October 2007

We all stim!

Stimming, repetitive, self-stimulating activities.

We all do it, tapping feet, cracking knuckles, twiddling thumbs, pacing, doodling, chewing you hair, biting your finger nails, etc etc

It is a lot more noticeable in many autistic people, rocking back and forth, head banging (not the music kind), finger flicking/rippling, spinning, humming, repeating words or sounds and complex body contortions. If you want to know more about stimming and autism, go here.

Stimming is a way to self-regulate sensory input for us all, when you are bored, or nervous, or even excited!

Sometimes for C the environment is too stimulating and he is in a state of sensory-overload. As a result, he engages in these behaviours to block-out the over-stimulating environment; and his attention becomes focused inward.
See Our You tube.

When I'm nervous I chew my tongue! When im excited i want to jump up and down!
What do you do?

So remember when you are out and see someone stimming, its not odd, as we all do it to some degree.


Jay said...

I start counting letters - if you say a sentence, I'll count (on my fingers) the number of letters in that sentence, usually as you are talking.

My 'protogee' Christine, who has autism amongst other disorders, has string in her fanny pack and when things get too intense, she fixates on the string, twiddling it over and over.

Anonymous said...

I bite my nails, skin around my nails, bite my bottom lip, roll my eyes, then usually just collapse in a big heap!

As for Amy, she just screams. And screams. Then shouts. Then screams again.

Crystal xx

Elissa said...

I twitch my face, as well as counting and mentally putting words into patterns.

Chris H said...

A family trait (when nervous, bored, upset)... we all twiddle our foot, one leg over the other, the one on top twiddles/twitches/bobbs up and down. When I'm excited I usually clap my hands! I have one uncle who paces up and down non stop, no matter what mood he's in, he can't sit still.

Anne Brooke said...

You're right. I have loads of these. I also do the swaying thing as a calming mechanism - it really helps. And I tap my feet like anything. I honestly don't think anyone is truly "normal" - whatever that means. We're all unique and on a scale of our own.


Casdok said...

Thats exactly what i am tryind to illustrate!!

Its interesting though to hear what other people do!

Lady in red said...

I will swing my leg when Im nervous ie sat waiting for something otherwise I chew the little finger on my left hand
but the most embarrassing thing is grinning or worst still giggling when Im nervous (the worst times being at funerals and when being spoken to venemously by my ex during the months of our divorce)
anothe thing I do is if I have anything in my pocket I will fiddle with that endlessly especially while talking to someone

Scorpy said...

I have always had these traits and little idiosyncrasies tapping a certain rhythm and other small compulsions and I see them in my AS daughter. At 11 (on Monday) Jess has had many different stims (?) over her short life but my Ex sees them as something that can be 'disciplined' out and that is WRONG!! I talk to Jess about them and I try and TRAIN her out of them as she gets older. Touching her plates in the centre before eating, foods can't touch, nodding her head in stressful situations simultaneously opening her mouth very wide, always moving her foot or hand to an imagined beat, Touching material like the curtains or the corner of a pillow, making irregular noises in her throat when she watches TV, Sucking her thumb when she is content...there are so many but they don't bother me as I CAN see what is wrong with her whereas my ex and her family put it solely down to discipline even though the best Doctors and Experts have all told them that it is AS. They Know she has AS but don't think the stimming is anything but an attention grab. They are so close minded! Ex also doesn't build Jess up on her skills like art and writing. They think they are a waste of time. They make me so mad but I don't let Jess (or her sister) see it. She is my best friend and I hers :)

Casdok said...

I agree with you, if she needs to do them, let her. As she gets older she may loose some, and develope others? Its not attention seeking.
You sound a wonderful dad!

DaisyDeadhead said...

Twist hair. As a result, I have curlicue curls right under my ears, from years of twisting the strands around my finger. :)

It particularly helps boredom!

Anonymous said...

I'm a foot twiddler, so is my sister. In fact I don't wear slippers anymore partly because when I do I constantly shoogle my foot. When I'm a bit anxious I grind my back teeth. Not sure of other things...going to keep a look out now!

abstractjenn said...

I twirl my hair, bit my fingers and tap my fingers. It's funny how people think they are so "normal" until simple things like this are pointed out to them.

Blossomcottage said...

Fidgety feet me! horses do it too Box walking, crib biting, windsucking!
Interesting blog
thank you
Blossom x

Casdok said...

It hadnt occured to me that animals do it to, but come to think of yes...yes they do!!

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

I chew the inside of my cheeks - I am also one of the type of people why cannot sit still. Possibly too much Thyroxine LOL.

However when I had a bad migraine, or am feeling migrainey - the latter I still get despite the preventative medication - I can't stand anyone near me doing repetative movements - it sets all my nerves on edge . . Also couldn't cope with loud noises, lights, anyone talking to me, bright colours, even the bedclothes were too heavy.

Also when I had a migraine and feeling migrainey I get a tune in my head which I cannot get rid of until I am back to normal for me. When I was in the throes of a severe migraine the Doctor used to come out and inject me with Morphine. I used to feel as though all my nerves were open and raw and could at that point understand head banging.

Casdok said...

Are you sure its migrain and not an attack of autism?!!

Beth said...

Fascinating. I'd never heard the expression stimming before. I know I chew my nails when nervous - I'm now going to watch for other things.

And I'm wondering - why do more males than females do that rapid jiggling of the leg when sitting - especially at the table?

Casdok said...

Beth, i will let you ask that question on your blog!!!!

Suzy said...

My favorite number is 9 (???) and I usually count to nine or think about words that have 9 letters in them.

Holly said...

So interesting, how people cope differently. It seems, from people's responses so far, there's movement of some sort, a physical release, and then a mental, counting numbers or letters. Just an observation.

Anyway, I must do something physical because I found the counting of letters and numbers so interesting - it never would have occured to me. Tuck my hair behind my ears, twirl paper into strings - napkins, whatever I have.

Somewhat related, somewhat an asid, my son (adopted from an orphanage) used to head bang to go to sleep. He stopped as he learned to get his comfort from us, but even head banging, which seems to us to be so extreme, is a natural human response to stress and apparently, soothing. It is a very common method for children from orphanages to get themselves to sleep.

Wade said...

I'm an excessive pen clicker!

The funny thing is that I never notice when I do it but I ALWAYS notice and get annoyed when someone else does it!

Pondside said...

Finger twiddling and toe tapping here.
I've just got caught up on your blogs - am getting a real education and enjoying your writing at the same time!

Casdok said...

Thank you so much, it means such a great deal when people tell me they have learnt something.
And learning is good isnt it!

Anonymous said...

Really, really great post - so right!

I am biting my lips. Some years ago I was rubbing my eyebrows when nervous - I only realised it, when they got itchy and red...

Bonnie Arnwine said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! I start counting the letters in words when I get nervous...

Vi vi vi vooom!!!!!!!! said...

I jig my leg up and down. So does my sister. Think it's a family thing.

I used to shred napkins, beer coasters as well, but seem to have controlled that one! (now instead I smoke! lol))

Jenni said...

I do a lot of different things--pen clicking, tapping, but mostly when I'm nervous or embarrassed I hum.

BBC said...


I was surprised that you allowed my two comments on your other post.

They were pretty hard hitting.

You know what?

You are......

OKAY !!!!!


Suzanne said...

Wow, This is an interesting topic, as I was just asking Mom about hers. We both fold, twist, fiddle with paper. and we both rub the skin around our fingernails. I used to chew paper or my hair while in grade school. I was surprised to find WesterWitch/Headmistress does one of my stims, chewing the insides of my cheeks. The skin in my mouth has permanent ridges. My older son goes so far as to poke his cheek to push the skin further in. He does a little tippy-toe flappy dance when he is excited, and he's not even diagnosed with asd (just Downs).
I'd say I feel freer to stim since accepting it from my autie

Drama Mama said...

Oooh. Good question.


Oh yes. I compulsively eat.

cher said...

Crofton will pick at some non-exsisting thing on his face until he has a scab to pick...which he then turns into a full time job.

i'm prone to nail biting myself and clenching my teeth. mostly, when i'm stressed or irritated, i feel like removing myself from everyone...and everything.

George said...

First off, thank you for visiting my blog and allowing me to return the favor to this blog that is very interesting. I have been sitting her trying to put my finger on something that I stim with (I have never heard the term before). I honestly don't know if I do anything.

Two years ago I suffered from severe major depression and since then I have been medicated. While it prevents me for going down the tubes (at least it is supposed to) neither does it allow me to become overly excited or happy. SO I exist in a quiet almost zombie state. I don't get nervous ... can't even remember the last time I was nervous ... another depressive influence ... can destroy your memory ...

I think you are a very courageous woman to be a single woman caring for an autistic son. I admire you for that, I admire you alot.

You are completely right when you say that people neither understand nor care about disabled persons (I am combining a couple of posts into this comment). Many people are terrified of others who are diagnosed with mental health issues. They don't know or understand because they are so influenced by what they see on television or movies.

As a result of my illness a couple of the very few friends I had dropped me as if I was the world's deadliest disease. I have not seen them not heard from them in almost 2 years. Why? They don't know what mental illness is. We are not raving lunatics, frothing at the mouth, bulging eyeballs, speaking incoherently and yelling in people's faces.

If I said I was diabetic, would people run away from me? I think not. Would they hang around but keep looking at me like I was going to fall into a diabetic coma in any second? Would a group mumble among themselves while casting out of the corner of their eye glances at me? Of course not so why does it happen if they know I have mental health issues?

I am diabetic, by the way and I have been injecting insulin for a few months less than 40 years.

We are discriminated against and nobody does anything about it in spite of all their rhetoric about it not happening at all.


Ah, that feel better ... it was nice meeting you Casdok ... I wish you and your son the best possible help that you can get.

But Why? said...

I most frequently tap my fingers on the desk/laptop/my thumb/any surface within reach. I also rub my forehead, fiddle with my ring or grind my teeth together. It's nice to have a name for these little habits - thanks!

Casdok said...

BBC Everyone is entitled to an opinion!
You didnt mention what stims you have?

Casdok said...

George, lovely to meet you to. And i can totally identify with everything you said.
Thank you.

DJ Kirkby said...

I rock from side to side, tap my feet or chew my cheeks and sometime a combination of these.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post!!! I never thought of it like that, but you are absolutely right. I bite my nails (better now, but when it takes huge effort), shake my leg when crossed, and twist my hair. I can see why it is comforting and brings on a feeling of safety or makes me grounded.....
Right now my daughter is diagnosed with Bipolar 1, but the spectrum issues are always at questions. Can't seem to get a definate answer, some doctors say definately no, some say maybe. It is confusing, but I continue trying to get her the best care and making sure her life is full. I celebrate the good days and try to figure out how to avoid or lesson the bad ones. It is up and down, but I love her soooo much.
Your blog is always so inspriational! Thanks.

dgibbs said...

I had been thinking about stims recently too. My son's version of stimming is visual. He gets his head as close to a toy as posibble and watches it go back and forth out of the corner of his eye.

I as well as quite a few people in my family bounce our knees. It is not uncommon to have to have one of us stop because we have the table vibrating and a car bouncing.

FAScinated said...

I appreciated your entry and you are so right about all of us seeking sensory input in different ways.

My husband and I adopted two children with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) and they, like many people with FASD, have sensory processing disorders. My daughter crashes into things and stomps around a lot for proprioceptive feedback. She also repeats things and seeks auditory input. My son fidgets with things and has a hard time sitting still.

I often wish that people around us would understand what is going on instead of assuming that these are bad kids with parents who didn't teach them any social skills. Thanks again for your entry, I'll be back to read your blog again! ~Kari

LAA and Family said...

Let's see.. I tap my fingers, I might play around with a pen or a pencil. My son stims a lot. Sometimes he holds up his hand and looks at it. He also likes to hold things right in front of one of his eyes and then he closes the other eye. He has started doing this while holding a magnifying glass in front of him and then he walks around the house like that.. like a super sleuth!

Brooklyn said...

I click my fingernails together. I never noticed how much I did it until I got married (7 years ago) and it drives my husband crazy!
I also just wanted to say I love your blog. After your comment on Brooklyn's blog, I checked it out. I am now a regular visitor!

BBC said...

"You didnt mention what stims you have?"

Hum, I'm supposed to be aware of them?

Um, biting my teeth, well gums being as I don't often wear my dentures after hearing that women like to have their nipples gummed. LOL

Shaking my feet but this is so common in so many people that I hate to mention it as I hate to be thought of as common. LOL

Picking on strange little 'spikes' that seem to crop out on my hands as I grow older.

Talking to myself out loud if there is someone else around?

Picking my nose and scratching my butt. Na, scratch that, everyone does that. :-)

Elizabeth McClung said...

Common Stims:

tapping my ears to make white noise if people are too noisy

Rubbing one section of my pre-frontal lobe when upset

swaying back and forth when upset

Pacing when stimulated

Saying the same word over and over again, usually a word created of 'safe sounds': "Gao!"

touching each of my fingers with my thumb again and again

when extreme agitated, banging my head

counting in prime numbers

Marla Fauchier Baltes said...

Whatever words I see or hear I will trace them in the air with my finger. I never really noticed I even did this until my husband asked me what I was doing one day. I trace them small so it is not that obvious. My daughter has lots of different stim behaviors. Sometimes she chews her tongue or bounces. She will retreat when she is over stimulated and bounce or do some like cut up little squares of paper for over an hour. Her stim is more mild.

Ashley loves Leo said...

I stim on music. I'll put a song on repeat and spend the afternoon with that "phrase". I also like rubber bands on my wrists.

Great post and comments!

Canvas Grey said...

Some times I stim with son to connect with him and it can be quite fun. I see stimming in others all the time, hand wringing, face touching, coin jingling, hair twirling, ALL the time! One of my early favs was Stevie Wonder as he played and his head moves side to side; I loved it especially after he got braids.

Half rabbit said...

I'm reading from your first blog post to last (or at least until I start rereading and get bored) I may as well comment on at least one post and this one seemed the easiest.

What stims do I have. (trying to remember on the spot so probably left out heaps)

Rocking from foot to foot when standing

Rocking from side to side when sitting

Occasionally gently rocking backwards and forwards

Really fast foot tapping

Shrugging shoulders and moving head

Flapping hands

Squishing up my face

Squashing my nose and face hard with my hand

Pulling my hair


Chewing on towels

Clicking pens

Rocking shoulder or back rhythmically into walls

Speaking nonsense words

Making noises - some random - some from animals, machines etc

Face grimacing

Teeth clenching. Both rhythmically and in a pattern

Moving head in circular patterns

Pacing backwards and forwards / in circles

Stretching out fingers and putting them together

Just general fidgeting with fingers and other parts

Feeling the need for weight and compression. i.e putting my legs underneath my shirt and pulling them up to chest or wearing a heavy quilt like a cloak. -- On second thought that's not a stim but will leave it in as that's how I'm typing

TheCorty said...

I like to pace around, especially in public. It relieves the stress that builds up when I'm waiting, in any way. Not that I'm impatient about everything. It's just stuff like this: like when I'm dying to ask a question, but the recipient is busy... or when I'm going out with my family, and I'm the first one ready. It's frustrating whenever I feel ahead of the next guy.

That's one that's accepted by "society" as "normal." Rocking back and forth generally isn't. I do two variations: swaying my head side to side, and the kind ya see on TV (fetal position, rocking forwards and backwards). The first, I do when I'm socially uncomfortable or intensely frustrated (the latter is done in a jerky motion). The second: when I'm severely distressed, I guess. I picked that one up from the movies, so it's more widely understood than headbanging. :/

I'm glad you asked for all our stimmish behaviors. Cool topic : )