What is Stimming?

Week two of the #TakeTheMaskOff campaign is about stimming. This is another one of those subjects that others can claim “EVERYONE DOES THIS!” So let’s start from the beginning of the lesson.

What is a stim? It is a self-stimulating behavior or action. Yes, everyone does it. You often hear it referred to more often as fidgeting. Hence, why you have a fidget spinner. People do it for various reasons, sometimes being just that there is excess energy they need to focus.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about why autistic people stim. Sometimes it’s an expression of happiness. Sometimes it’s an effort to control nervousness. Sometimes it’s… OK, really? I could make a long list here. The fact is that autistic people maintain and communicate differently than others. There are various reasons they do it, but it helps with the reality of the world.

I could talk about a number of reasons I stim, but I want to focus on one particular thing. It can partly be attributed to being autistic, and partly attributed to having ADHD. I stim to focus. The ADHD side of things has me stimming because I often have excess energy. I’ve got to move at times, and it just can’t be helped. It’s one of those things that I oft live life with a beat in my head. I’m always moving to that beat. Sometimes I’ll even let that beat out and start doing vocal beat-box (another stim). The autism side of my stimming to focus is more of a neurological reason. (I’m really not about to brag, just make a statement of fact.) My brain is bigger and has more capacity than most people. It’s the truth. My stimming to focus forces enough of the capacity of my brain to be used in other, unrelated pursuits. That narrows the focus of whatever I am working on in to something useful.

On “Four-Way Stop” this coming weekend, I’ll talk about how stimming plays in to masking.


Also published on Medium.

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