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Stimming and Autism: 5 Key Facts You Should Know

Stimming and Autism: 5 Key Facts You Should Know

What causes stimming in autism?

Stimming and autism are invariably linked, with the former often serving as a distinct characteristic of the latter. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often display self-stimulating behavior, also known as stimming. These actions manifest in various forms, such as spinning, hand flapping, or repetitive speech. They extend beyond mere repetition and are a crucial part of the self-regulation behaviors associated with autism.

Understanding the meaning is essential for comprehending its impact on those on the spectrum. This knowledge is particularly beneficial for parents and caregivers of children with ASD, who may often find themselves asking: “What causes stimming in autism?

At the ABA Centers of Pennsylvania, we encounter the interplay between stimming and autism daily through our client-focused ABA therapy. Given this exposure, we have a deep understanding of how this self-stimulating behavior affects children and teenagers with ASD. Consequently, many of our treatment strategies aim to address and decrease the frequency of these autism-stimming behaviors, providing our clients with healthier alternatives so that they can learn to regulate themselves.

In this blog post, we will explain the meaning of stimming to dismantle any associated stigma. We aim to foster a greater acceptance and understanding of stimming and autism.

Understanding Stimming and its Causes

Stimming and autism are closely intertwined, with stimming serving as a prevalent behavior among individuals diagnosed with autism. Stimming refers to repetitive movements or sounds unique to each person. Research from the National Library of Medicine states that these actions, known as autism-stimming behaviors, are often a means for individuals to adapt to their surroundings and cope with strong emotions and thoughts, especially when they’re overwhelmed with sensory input that leads to anxiety.

Everyone engages in some form of stimming, but those with developmental disorders tend to have specific methods, such as hand flapping, spinning, or skin rubbing. For instance, the Research Institute of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia states that stimulating behaviors like spinning influence the vestibular sensory system, which assists with body orientation and balance. Understanding the meaning of stimming is crucial to comprehend its role in autism. It’s essential to remember that stimming in autism serves a purpose and should not necessarily be suppressed. However, addressing it when it disrupts others or interferes with daily activities is equally important.

Types of Stimming

Many neurodiverse individuals struggle to regulate emotions and process sensory stimuli like noises, lights, images, and textures. These challenges contribute to the manifestation of stimming. While stimming behaviors differ among individuals with autism, some of the most common types of stimming include:

  • Shaking legs and feet
  • Forcefully rubbing the skin or scratching
  • Blinking repetitively
  • Biting fingers and nails
  • Cracking knuckles
  • Whistling
  • Walking on tiptoes
  • Pulling or twirling hair
  • Repeating words and phrases
  • Lining up objects meticulously
  • Staring at lights or spinning objects
  • Flapping hands
  • Spinning around multiple times

5 Things You Should Know About Stimming and Autism

There are many misconceptions surrounding stimming. Therefore, clarifying these five critical facts about these behaviors is essential to eliminate stigma.

  1. Stimming is Not Necessarily Dangerous – While some stimming behaviors, such as head banging or excessive yelling, can potentially cause harm, most of the self-regulation behaviors pose no threat to either the person with autism or those around them. These are internalized actions carried out without any malicious intent. Stimming expresses emotions, such as frustration, particularly when verbal communication becomes challenging. However, this doesn’t imply that the neurodivergent individual intends to disturb those around them.
  1. Not All Stimming Requires Control – It’s a misconception to believe that all autism stimming behaviors, regardless of their intensity, necessitate control. The more effective approach involves managing these behaviors rather than attempting complete self-control. If stimming disrupts school activities, hinders learning abilities, results in social isolation, causes family conflicts, or becomes destructive or dangerous, then it is advisable to address it.
  1. The Frequency of Stimming is Variable – Fluctuations in the frequency of stimming behaviors are common among neurodiverse and neurotypical individuals. For many people with ASD, stimming may occur daily, but the reasons for these behaviors and their duration can vary. For instance, on a day filled with particularly stressful or uncomfortable situations, stimming in autism may last for hours.
  1. Understanding the Cause is Key to Managing Stimming – Stimming is often a means of expressing discomfort, distress, or frustration. Recognizing that through stimming, the individual is communicating something is crucial. To address repetitive behaviors, analyze the situation, the associated feelings, and potential triggers for them. Once you have identified the cause, offer changes like taking a break in a calmer environment and encouraging acceptable behaviors.

  2. Accept, Understand, and Assist – To dispel stigmas surrounding stimming and autism, it’s essential to educate ourselves about the disorder and its associated behaviors. Sharing this information with our families and communities can foster understanding and compassion. Breaking the stigma requires refraining from judgment and remembering that stimming, in its essence, is a natural behavior for people with ASD that aids them in self-regulation. Understanding the stimming meaning helps to promote acceptance.

ABA Therapy Helps Stimming and Autism

ABA therapy is the benchmark for autism care. This scientifically backed approach, effective for over four decades, is highly successful in managing stimming behaviors and understanding their causes and underlying functions. Furthermore, ABA therapies that address stimming often propose more socially acceptable alternative behaviors. ABA therapists collaborate one-on-one with individuals with autism to develop plans tailored to their needs and goals related to stimming and autism.

The techniques therapists employ in ABA therapy, such as positive reinforcement, prompting, and shaping, aid individuals on the spectrum in learning new skills and behaviors. These learnings serve to enhance self-regulation and improve social performance. Through structured interventions, ABA therapy can diminish both the frequency and intensity of stimming behaviors, assisting individuals with autism in engaging more healthily in social interactions, communication, and everyday experiences. 

ABA Centers of Pennsylvania: The Industry’s Premier Choice for ABA Therapy

When it comes to supporting a loved one with autism, selecting the optimal choice is paramount. ABA therapy is a methodology that assures superior results for the developmental progress of individuals with autism. ABA Centers of Pennsylvania tirelessly strives to offer the finest ABA service in the region. Whether you’re in King of Prussia or Philadelphia, our in-home ABA therapy service can effectively assist your neurodiverse child in managing stimming and autism.

If you’re prepared to embark on your child’s journey toward remarkable development, please call us at (844) 444 -7496 or contact us online. We are ready to address all your queries and provide a complimentary consultation.

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