This BLOG was so helpful to me, and to us. To get a “REASON” why your child chews things, fidgets, HUMS, bangs, rocks, twitches….such an incredible insight. i HOPE it helps a lot more parents or teachers to understand the reality of the needs to “stim”… Helen



Mum saw this picture today, and thought it was good!

I didn’t know the word for some of the moves and things i do now and i used to do…but now i have it.

It has to do with sensory issues. And with everybody autistic there is either way to much sensory things happen and you have to block them out, or not enough and you have to do some!

  • if i go into a quiet place…i turn on the TV and then i do whatever …
  • i hum in school cos it is quiet
  • but if there is a noisy place in school i go away from it and sit in a corner and read and my reading closes out the noise.
  • at Mass, or when my body is meant to sit quiet, it needs to move….so i tap my feet, dig my nails into the wooden chairs, twist my feet up onto the chair behind me.
  • sometimes after school if i feel i had to be quiet for a long time or if i am stressed i need to do helicopters and stuff…that is spinning round in circles pretty fast til you get a bit dizzy.
  • for years i tapped and tapped and tapped…there was a Doctor Who rhythm of the Master and it got in my head for years!! I used to do it on the desk, and when i was told to stop i did it with my feet on the floor.
  • i used to do this clicking “tutting” sound when i was stressed when i was talking…like a tick before i would start a phrase.
  • sometimes i would rub my fingers past each other but tapping them on the table. That drives my bigger brother nuts.
  • i ALWAYS used to rock on the chair – especially in primary school…a few times i did it so much i would fall and be embarrassed…but i couldn’t help it cos i needed to move.
  • chewing on objects has always been a problem. When I was really little when babies put things in their mouths i used to have 5 dummies. 1 in my mouth and 2 in each hand and i used to change them when the one in my mouth would get warm, so it was a bit like juggling.
  • i used to when i got a bit older still like to have objects in each hand …so i used to grab wee guys 0r wee action figures and although i didn’t notice what i was doing, i would chew the heads off them. Then when they were ugly they were no use.
  • i then used to chew my pencils..and my classroom assistant used to go mad.
  • i went through a real phase of pencil sharpening…it was great cos i could get up and move off my seat AND use both my hands…my classroom assistant had to ration that one, cos i was chopping though pencils.
  • this year in school i use pens a fair bit. i don’t really chew them cos they plastic is snappy, but i accidentally suck up the ink and the pens stop working and then mum goes crazy at me! Then when i notice the pen is full of saliva i am grossed out and i never use it again!
  • i used to have chew toys…but they are mostly quite female so i would still chew my clothes sleeves by accident…especially when i am stressed.
  • i had different fidget toys from mum and from school and from the OT. The stretchy ones were good…but then i would forget and bite them.
  • there were other other fidget toys but i could take them apart and make noises with them and disturb the rest of the class…so they weren’t good.
  • I had the cushions with movement so i could move but i still needed to move more.
  • i need my knees up in front of me…one folded under my bum and the other one in front of me like this.IMG_00000092This tight position makes me feel compressed…which is the only way i manage not to move. My school are good and have got really used to my sit…and i do even get away with it on the science lab stools…even if i fall, it doesn’t matter as much, but if i had to sit another way i couldn’t concentrate!
  • I usually sit on a sofa with mum or dad, cos my feet are usually like a monkeys cos i like them bare and i like to move them  feeling things with them. I can lift things up with my toes! My mum says i have hobbit feet – not cos they are hairy, but i have toes with spaces between them and they are long and flat feet.IMG_00000093
  • When i am doing homework and am close up with mum i with either like the fabric in her clothes and be touching it without noticing – especially if it is a really cottonny top or HATE it if it has the hard threads of the man made fabrics….then my hands kness and feet all MOVE AWAY!
  • if there is a smell i hate – like agriculture i have to use one of my other senses to shut it out. Sometimes i need a squish (a compression hug).
  • oh there is one noise i do and i hear mum immediately “Fionn you are doing that whistling thing!” and i don’t know i am…
  • One time when i was about 3 years younger there was a really weird disturbing body odor smell at Mass. I couldn’t cope…i had to move back and forth in different chairs but it was still in my nose. Mum had to put a tiny piece of perfume out of her bag on my wrist so i could block out the smell. When it wore off i had to get it done again.
  • That day because i could hardly cope with it, i was clapping my hands without noticing and was very autistic to see.
  • There is ONE other big one i do and it drives my whole family NUTS…i can’t pass a musical instrument without playing on it for a while. Its like i have no choice but make tunes…
  • oh and sometimes i like to feel pressure upside down so i kinda do headstands on the sofa..or lie down with my legs up the wall pressing against the wall with my bare feet,
  • PARENTS and TEACHERS need to understand about STIMMING. We can’t help it. Our senses are “sensatious” and need more information than normal people’s and so it isn;t a behaviour it is your brain needing to do something.
  • i hope this helps some parents to understand.
Stim, stims or stimming is short for “self stimulation”. Almost everyone does it(tapping feet, cracking knuckles, twiddling thumbs), but in autistic people these behaviors are more pronounced and may seem downright strange. Autistic people often engage in stimming when they are stressed, to self regulate and sometimes to express emotion. Common autistic stims are: rocking back and forth, headbanging(not the music kind), finger flicking/rippling, spinning, humming, repeating words or sounds and complex body contortions.
Good music makes me stim a lot. Stimming shouldn’t be discouraged, it’s a means for me to understand my environment.

Hi there… it’s Helen here…a question was left on the blog about stimming…

Q: Thank you so much for writing this blog. I have a three year old grandson on the autism spectrum. He is non verbal, so far, and reading here helps me understand him better. I have a question about stimming. He loves to rub family members ears with his hands and feet…it seems to calm him. One of his therapist is against this and doesn’t want him stimming “on others”. Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks!

I just thought i had written a long enough reply and it may help someone else…

so i decided to share with you: 

it’s Helen here…Fionn’s mum. Fionn is on the PS3 at the minute so i thought i would answer. If that doesn’t answer, i will definitely get his input!
Fionn has always been very tactile – as an infant there were 5 dummies…which he rotated always 2 in each hand and one in this mouth…and almost juggled them. He STILL likes his bare feet in contact with the ground…or under someones legs sitting on the sofa… with Fionn “compression” or as he calls is “squishing” when you physically had to wrap him as fully as possible and squeeze him as tight as you can, helped him CALM. I know Temple Grandin said similarly that applying pressure helped her feel calm.As he grew a bit, and was at school , so that the Squishes weren’t available on demand he wore “underarmour”- that base-layer sports clothes – and ideally a size too small…underwear TOO small… anything that feels tight settles him.
His dummies obviously were only “age appropriate” for a while so that grew into fill bath hands with objects…. we then worked with FIDGET aids – like blutack, twisty toys, stress-balls never worked as within a few hours they were mouthed and burst!.
He used to CHEW the random objects without realising it…i FELT for him when my nephews and nieces hid their character toys when he appeared, but i also understood why!
with me. Fionn is still very huggy, cuddly, likes to tuck the feet in… sits on the sofa as tightly curled into a BALL as he can so to do his homework – in school his compromise for this is he sits with his left knee under his bum and his right knee up in front of him – if you actually tried to make him alter that the TRADE off on attention span is enormous! So we don’t and the school allow it.
He would be inclined while getting a hug goodnight to not notice if my necklace ends up gtting “tasted” …nor would i bother highlighting it.
The squishes we gradually explained were not for everyone, and no hugs form brothers OUTDOORS…

BUT i guess we tried when we understood the “why” for each stim- and there IS a why!!…we tried to adapt the same feeling in another way.
for instance now the underarmour isn’t needed as he bought his school jumper in a neat fit size and ROLLS up the sleeves and gets the same compression and calming value.
Our OT was helpful BUT theory based… i think the sit on your hands, or pull your bottom through the chair, or sit properly but on a moving cushion NEVER seemed to do any better than the less obtrusive things we were doing.We didn’t feel that sleep in a tight sleeping back was a road we wanted to go down as it is a quick fix but where do you go from there? Fionn sleeps rolled up tight..and if on his back his knees are up in the air… He gets enough sensory feedback from playing with a ball against a wall as he would from the wobble seats…
And we HAD awful days… we had one day at church where the “smell” of the man in front (which none of us got) OVERWHELMED him so much that i had to think on my feet and spray sample perfume on HIS CUFFS so he could inhale them instead.
It is a constant trial and error…
and small details pop out without meaning to…as an example, Fionn offered another aspergers child a bag of crisps and he child refused…and Fionn said idly “oh i get why” and when asked he went on to explain to me an the other wee fella’s mam that it’s a sensory thing. Crisps getting stuck in your teeth is really really distracting…
so as he understands and we probe, we manage…
I do understand the “not stimming on others” as i do know of a wee lad that loved the feel of tights…which although cute at 4, becomes unacceptable later…so try to offer the same sensory effect with something else if you can…
am honestly hoping that this helps in some way, but we have found our feet throughout… NOT necessarily what we were told to do, and tried to adapt it to be as socially subtle as was possible…
I really hope there is something in here that helps you, Karen…
and KEEP at hi speaking/singing – don’t ever give up on that…
Helen x