Stimming helps neurodivergent people stay calm, among other benefits.
June 17, 2021
Stimming, which is short for “self-stimulatory behavior,” is a set of behaviors involving the repetition of movements, sounds, or other actions. Though anyone can stim, the behavior is most common in neurodivergent people, especially autistics. Stimming can be more or less visible, but with a few specific exceptions is almost always a beneficial action for neurodivergent people.
There are a few reasons that neurodivergent people stim. One is to relieve sensory overload or counteract negative sensory input (see Sensory Sensitivity). Another is to provide positive sensory input. A third is to relieve anxiety or stress, or to provide self-comfort. Whatever the reason may be, it is important that neurodivergent people be allowed to stim. Stimming is an expression of our neurology, and in almost all cases is not a behavior that needs to be punished or corrected.
Some examples of common stims are:
- Hand flapping
- Leg tapping
- Playing with hair/jewelry
- Hand or finger movement
- Neck movements
Another form of stimming is vocal stimming, which is the repetition of sounds. This can include echolalia, which is the repetition of sounds or words that another person made or said. Not all people who use vocal stims experience echolalia, and not all neurodivergent people use vocal stims. How much or how little someone stims may depend on their mood, environment, or other factors.
It is important to remember that while stimming may seem strange or disruptive, it is one of the ways neurodivergent people stay calm and can help regulate our emotions.