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Understanding Stimming

Stimming is self-stimulatory behavior and is also known as stereotypy. It is a repetitive behavior typical to a person with autism and may involve activities such as hand- flapping, pacing, nail biting, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words or phrases, tapping fingers or feet or even banging head and objects.

People with some developmental disabilities or disorders may also do stimming.


The exact reason behind a person carrying out repetitive behavior is not yet known. However, study suggest that such behavior may be relaxing to a person with autism. Stimming may result in the release of a chemical called the beta-endorphins and it evokes a sense of pleasure from the nervous system. In most people it has been found to have a calming effect as well.

Stimming is common to both children and adults with autism. Some people involve in stimming when they experience emotions such as happiness, fear, stress, excitement, anxiety, nervousness.

The behavior could be occasional or constant and will vary from person to person.

" It is a sensory seeking issue which is self- stimulatory, getting satisfaction from the repeated movement? Play of light? At Nandavanam, as these children settle into their neuronal development the styming disappears" says Dr Veera Panch, Mentor & School Doctor, Nandavanam Center of Excellence for Children with Developmental Challenges


Stimming can be of following types depending on the senses use to stim. Auditory, Tactile, Visual, Vestibular, Smell or Taste stimming.

Stims are repetitive behavior s found in children with autism. From my point of view it serves 2 functions- firstly It helps to stay focused in the activity involved and secondly, Its a coping mechanism they use when they are not able to control the environment they are in. From my experience, I feel it's not wrong to allow child to stim when he needs it unless it's harmful to child or others. - Priya Sasimurli, Parent to child with autism

Managing Stimming

When people with autism are not hurting themselves or others with stimming, they should not be stopped from doing it. The behavior could be their way of communicating or responding to external stimuli or as a coping mechanism and should be allowed.

However, in case the stim involves danger to safety such as throwing objects or banging head, then managing it becomes necessary.

Behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, medications, and change in environmental factors, are some options that can be used to help the person let go of a particularly unsafe stim.

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