Stimming: Self-stimulating behaviour and me


Stimming is a repetitive behaviour done mostly by people with autism, but not exclusively. It is short for self-stimulating behaviour and is stereotypical in people with autism. It is a repetitive behaviour which helps calm us down while at the same time probably irritating the hell out of you.

It is characterised by flapping hands, a typical child-like reaction, which is found in autistic adults too, or sitting down and rocking too and fro. There are many different ways to stimmy, mine are none of the above.

I stimmy in four ways:

Drumming of the fingers, often in complex patterns, the most common one I have worked out to be a repetition of eleven beats. I was never that simple to work out.

Then there’s pacing. Walking up and down the room, which as I also have arthritis and walk on crutches, does me no good at all. But when I get a bit irritated, I can’t sit still. If I am out walking I will speed up.

Then there’s the constant talking, often when walking a road with bust traffic. In order to block out the traffic sounds, I will do a long monologue to keep the traffic sound out. Is it boring? You bet it is. Even I find what I am saying in these circumstances to be dull, dull, dull. It is a coping mechanism, not conversation.

Then there’s rubbing my hands together, a sign that I really need to chill out. It could be a sign that a meltdown is coming, but it has absolutely nothing at all to do with anger, no matter how angry I look. My body language is often deceptive.

That is stimming and me. If you see me like that last one I need space, coming over to tell me to calm down is just another stimulation to my over-stimulated brain. Leave me to calm down, I need to clear my head.

If you see other autistic people doing repetitive behaviours, they find it comforting – I mentioned above that hand flapping and rocking, please let them do it.

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