Stimming, short for “self-stimulatory behavior,” is a common feature of autism. Also known as stereotypical behavior or stereotypy, stimming is when a person engages in a repetitive behavior or sound. Classic examples include hand-flapping, rocking, spinning, humming, and repeating certain words or phrases.
For autistic people, stimming serves three different purposes:
- Emotional regulation: stimming is a way to blow off steam and energy from strong emotions, both positive and negative.
- Increase or decrease sensory input: stimming can either block out the world when it’s getting to be too much, or it can increase stimulation for those who are sensory-seeking.
- Self-expression: get to know the individual, and the way they stim can tell you whether they are feeling happy, excited, or anxious—without them needing to say a word!
Not to mention stimming is also fun for autistic people—a perfectly legitimate reason to engage in such a behavior!
Stimming is not unique among people on the spectrum; just about everyone engages in repetitive behaviors to some degree (think foot tapping, hair twirling, or any other sort of “fidget”). However, it is more common and necessary for autistic individuals.
It is also something that people with autism do not outgrow; kids as well as adults on the spectrum engage in it.
There is nothing wrong with stimming, as it is an important coping mechanism in an autistic person’s toolbox. Unless a stim is harmful to the autistic person or anyone else, it should not be stopped.
And that is the important takeaway message from one woman’s YouTube video.
An autistic adult who goes by the YouTube name “Becoming Savannah” demonstrates a variety of her different stims for the world to see.
According to her video, it took a lot of courage for her to upload footage of her various stims. But her bravery is highly appreciated because it shows what stimming looks like for some people (I say “some” because stims are as unique and varied as the people who engage in them!).
As such, it helps raise awareness and de-stigmatize the practice. It shows what contexts she engages in stimming and promotes acceptance of this important behavior. While stimming may look a little unusual to people who are not terribly familiar with autism, it is a legitimate coping skill that deserves to be treated with respect.
Want to Learn More About This Autism Behavior?
After watching the video, check out this article that answers all your questions on stimming.
A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.