Patreon members and YouTube channel members had access to this video on June 7, 2022. The video’s public release will be Aug 17, 2022.
Hey, Lyric here. This week, I am going to be revisiting a topic I’ve already touched on in the past.
I think it’s important to periodically revisit subjects because, as we grow, our understanding of different things, evolves and changes.
Since it’s been a few years since I’ve done this topic, I thought it was about time to do an update.
So, what is this topic I’m redoing this year?
That topic is stimming.
We’ll talk a little bit about sensory seeking too.
If you’re at all curious about stimming and sensory seeking, please do stay tuned.
All right…. so first let me start with this very neuro-typical medical definition of stimming, and then we’ll unpack that and talk about the human experience of stimming.
So, “stimming is defined as” – I’m reading off of Wikipedia today – “self stimulatory behavior.”
That’s sounds really dirty, first of all… and it’s not typically “that” – what you might be thinking when you read that…. although I don’t see why it couldn’t be “that”. Let me continue to read the definition. I think you’ll understand what I mean by “that” as I dive in.
“Also known as stimming and self stimulation, it is the repetition of physical movements, sounds words, or moving objects. Such behaviors” – ewwe – “scientifically known as stereotypies, are found to some degree in all people, especially those with developmental disabilities and are especially frequent in autistic people. People diagnosed with sensory processing disorder are also known to potentially exhibit stimming behaviors.”
Okay. So what does all of that blah mean?
One thing I would like to say, before we move forward, and point out, is: that every single human being and, even non-human beings, sometimes stim. It’s not only Autistic People that stim. It did say that in the definition, but I want to point that out, because that’s really important.
Every human stims to some degree: chewing, clicking your pen, tapping your fingers, things like that, but the degree, and the intensity, to which Autistic, and NeuroDivergent People, people with sensory processing disorder and differences, stim… we stim a lot more.
We stim constantly – some of us. Not all of us. We’re all different. We’re all unique. We’re not a monolith, but those of us who are stimmy – I’m a very stimmy Autistic. For a lot of us, myself included, stimming can be as natural to us as breathing.
Not to stim can take a lot of work, focus, and concentration, and also often will have consequences.
For example, if I try to hold my body still, I have to do that by holding my body very stiff, and very tense. You will find me having tension in my body, getting lots of knots throughout my body. I’ve actually had like jaw pain and jaw problems from clenching my teeth, and giving myself headaches from clenching, and holding everything in.
It’s -it’s like Elsa. “Conceal, don’t feel. Don’t let them know. Hide. Be still. Be normal, darn you!”
No. I can’t do it anymore. It, it had physical impacts on my health, when I did hold the stimming in, because that energy, as I’ll talk about in a minute, comes from somewhere and has to go somewhere.
Something else that’s really important, that I want everyone to understand about stimming, that I think is confusing to some people, who don’t have stimmy brains, is: how important stimming is, and how there are different types of stimming. NeuroTypicals all lump it in under one thing, in one definition.
There is involuntary stemming, the stimming that many Autistic and NeuroDivergent people do, that we don’t even realize is happening.
That is the rocking, the clapping and flapping, when we’re excited, the jumping up and down for joy, the pacing back and forth, that happens without me realizing I’m doing it. This, this rocking stuff right now, because I’m getting really amped up and energized, and so, my body is getting filled with energy, and it just has to move to release some of that.
I don’t even realize I’m doing it, most of the time, or I become aware I’m doing it, and I have the opportunity to force myself to stop, which is a very mindful process where I have to like force myself to stop. As I said, I will be clenching, and doing other things, because that energy that has come into my body, still is there, and still has to go somewhere, whether I get it out in a way that works well for me or not.
If I stopped stimming, and flapping, and jumping, and getting the energy out in those ways, I will then start picking my skin. My hands will wander to my face, and I’ll start picking at my face, and at my skin, without even realizing I’m doing it. I may start bighting at my nails. I may start biting and chewing the inside of my mouth, and the inside of my lips.
I switched from stimming in a way that is visible, to stimming in a way that is air quotes, “socially acceptable”, and a lot of the air quotes, “socially acceptable” ways my energy comes out, when I am holding in my stims, are ways that are actually harmful to me.
Being asked to hold in, my stims is harmful to me, because as an Autistic Person, those involuntary stims that occur, as a response to my emotional reactions: joy, fear, excited, worried.
Those things make me stim. The emotions, create energy in me. I have an intense, emotional and an intense sensory experience. So sensory things will also make me stim.
Those stims that come out, subconsciously, are part of my Autistic Body language.
Imagine if we asked NeuroTypicals, “Hey, I don’t like your body language. You need to be very mindful to change your body language.”
Your body language is natural and is a reflection of how you feel.
Asking Autistic People to change, stifle, or hide their involuntary stims is like asking us to change, and hide, our body language, which is an extension of how we’re feeling.
By asking us to hide, tone down, and mute our stims for you, you’re asking us to hide and tone down our feelings, and emotional, and sensory experience – asking us to act like everything’s okay, or everything is one way, when it’s another way.
So now that we’ve talked about involuntary stimming, let’s talk about sitmming that is more intentional, the stimming that, actually, often is more tied to sensory seeking, in my opinion, but NeuroTypicals, and everyone else, call it stimming because it is still “repetitive behaviors”.
So, sensory seeking, stimming, stimulating your senses…right?
This is stimulating two senses right now, the sense of sound and the sense of touch, because its this wiggly thing in my hands.
You may have noticed, if you’ve been with me for a while, my hands are always in motion. Often if they are not in motion above the table, they are in motion below the table.
Having something in my hands keeps them busy in a way that keeps them out of trouble, like picking my face and those other things I mentioned earlier.
Since finding out I’m Autistic, and starting to understand more about sensory processing differences, and my own sensory profile, and figuring out a good sensory diet for myself, I have been a lot more mindful in engaging in intentional stimming/sensory seeking with various stim tools and items.
I know that it’s helpful for me to stimulate my sense of sound myself, because I find sounds from other people often to be painful, overwhelming, and can cause sensory overload for me. Also, since I am very sensitive to touch, having things I can touch, that are pleasant, having control over the sense that often is overwhelming to me, can be helpful.
As a young person, I remember, for example, laying on the floor and playing with pinwheels and box fans. Just sitting and staring at the spinning and also, with the box fan, did anyone else ever do this: that thing where the fan is spinning in your like yelling into the fan and it’s changing your voice?
Which was me verbally stimming: stimming by using words and sounds, so that I could hear sounds, that I am in control over.
Do you verbal stim? I am still, as an adult, someone who is constantly verbally stimming with sounds music, quotes from movies, shows, commercials, and other random things, which if you’ve ever been to one of my Facebook live streams, you might know already.
One thing I need to mention, because it’s really important, before we move on, is that stimming can be dangerous. It can be hurtful. For example, in overwhelming situations, in the past, I have banged my head on things, punched myself in the face, punched my legs, broken things, smashed things, and this sucks when it happens.
I want people to understand that when these, stims that are harmful to person or property happen, they are often a reaction to a very, very, intense experience.
I’m hitting myself, because I am in an extreme, physical or emotional pain. The pain is so bad that “hitting myself is a pleasant distraction from it” is the best way I can describe this, when you get in that really intense overwhelm.
Whether that’s an emotional overwhelm, or a physical overwhelm from something like a toothache, or intense emotional pain, that’s an intense, emotional energy. It has to come out. There needs to be some kind of a high energy solution to get that out, and punching myself in the leg might not be the best answer, but it’s better than punching myself in the face. So let me do that, if I need to punch myself in the leg, just let me do it. Okay?
Quick recap before we go:
Stimming is something, every human being does, and something that many non-humans also do: tigers pacing in the zoo, for example.
Stimming is something that, for those of us who do it, is very natural, as natural as breathing for many of us.
There are types of stimming. There’s involuntary stimming, stemming that we don’t realize is happening, often until we are pointed out, or we see people staring at us, and we realize we’ve done something that has gotten the attention of those around us.
Those types of stims, that come subconsciously, are also part of an Autistic and NeuroDivergent Person’s body language. They are part of our emotional expression.
Also, in addition, there are stims, sensory seeking, that can be done intentionally, and can be great avenues of self-care for minds who need sensory input.
There’s also real danger from stims that can cause self-harm, and we need to realize that those intense moments of overwhelm are a person feeling very out of control and needing to calm back down and feel safe.
Thank you all so much for hanging out with me this week, as I did this little recap, deep dive into stimming and NeuroDivergent stimming, Autistic stimming, human stimming.
If you are as a stimmy human, I would love to hear from you: drop a comment in the comments below with your favorite involuntary, sensory seekie stim, that you go to, when you know you need a good stim.
This is my current one right now, this little sluggy rainbow articulated, sluggy. Awesome.
What’s your, what’s your go-to?
Also, what’s your most common involuntary stim, that you do, when you don’t realize you’re even stimming?
I would say for me, it would probably be rocking, or if I’m standing, pacing. Drop a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.
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I will see you all next Wednesday. Bye!
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