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To Stim Or Not To Stim?
To Stim Or Not To Stim?
Cynthia Carr Falardeau
We all do it. We have funny little ways that we settle our nerves or process the world around us. For many, like my son, taking in information can send him into overload.
You see many children and adults with Autism Spectrum and Related Disabilities also often have Sensory Integration Disorders. This means the information they are receiving about their surroundings may not be accurate. In their effort to cope, they may do things to calm their nerves. These activities may range from flapping their hands, to rocking, to humming, to spinning, or to lining up their toys.
These behaviors may range from visual, auditory, tactile, vestibular, taste and smell.
My son, like many, uses a combination. He will produce a verbal humming noise and run or walk in a pattern.It’s as if he is screaming, “Too much! Sensory overload… overload…overload!!!”
I have to say that at eight years of age it happens less frequently. However, it is not any easier to watch or to redirect him out of the haze.
As I note in the title of this piece, this behavior is viewed as an option. Observers may judge that you simply tell the child to stop the action. If only it were that simple for him. The reality of that statement is that it often heightens the actions.
To some extent you can redirect the child. But often, it is a matter of adjusting or changing the environment that is sending the person into overload.
I mean, think for a moment, what sends you into orbit?I know I have my list. As a hard working mother who juggles to balance work, home and my son’s intense therapy schedule, I have little patience for a certain group of moms. You know the ones. They have little to do other than to compare senseless gossip and brag to about who is, “Busy! Bus!, Busy!” I suppose it’s my problem but frankly, they make my teeth hurt.
I think the same is true for my son. Some situations are too much for him. So he finds a way to cope.
1. New and unstructured situations: We once had a school psychologist tell us that she didn’t think our son was Autistic. My husband and I almost burst into laughter. When we asked her why, she replied that she had never seen him exhibit any Autistic behaviors.After further discussion it as revealed that in structured settings our son’s stims were not present. When we enter a new setting or surrounds…it’s his way of making sense of sensory input.
2. Excitement: Think about when you are so excited you want to jump out of your skin. For our son, he will fixate on a phrase or repeat a series of activities. He will often repeat verbatim the instructions of a ride or a movie.
3. Certain situations send him into orbit: Flashing lights and loud music will either make him cover his ears or act out as a means of finding order.
4. Computer games and YouTube: Educational or not…these sources of media are often like crack cocaine to our son. We often have to limit his time with these mediums. If we ...