Stimming, or self-stimulatory behavior, is common among autistic children. These repetitive movements can be obvious like hand flapping, body rocking, or headbanging. They can also be more subtle like lip biting, humming, clapping, and in my daughter’s case, touching hair.
Stimming isn’t necessarily harmful or bad, in fact, you might be stimming right now. If you wiggle your foot, twirl your hair, or tap a pencil while you’re working – you’re stimming. Stimming becomes a problem when it is harmful, destructive, or maladaptive.
Common Causes of Stimming in Children with Autism
In functional medicine, we look for the root cause of a problem. When we apply that method to stimming we don’t always find a clear answer. However, there are some common causes of self-stimulatory behavior that can be identified and addressed.
- GI issues such as constipation and dysbiosis
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Low cholesterol
- Magnesium or zinc deficiencies
- Elevated glutamate or ammonia levels
- Retained primitive reflexes
Potential solutions can follow naturally if the root cause can be identified.
Therapies and Interventions for Stimming
When the root cause of self-stimulatory behavior can’t be identified, therapy and other interventions can help. Finding the right solution for your child will take a good deal of trial and error. You may find these therapies and interventions helpful:
- Providing appropriate substitutions: For Sophie, we’ve tried offering her dolls, koosh balls with hair-like texture, and a variety of other options. She still prefers actual hair on an actual person. You may be able to find an appropriate substitution for your child’s self-stimulatory behavior.
- Sensory diet: Providing your child with planned and strategic sensory input on a regular basis may eliminate their need to stim
- Determine when they stim: Determining the function of the stim can help you find appropriate substitutions
- Talk to your child: Explain to your child how their stimming affects the comfort level of other people. Obviously, the success of this intervention will depend on your child’s ability to understand other people’s perspectives
- Gut restoration
- Neurologist consultation
- Testing for sensitivities and deficiencies
- Retained primitive reflex therapy: An occupational therapist can evaluate your child for retained primitive reflexes and provide targeted interventions to address those concerns
Developing Your Autism Game Plan can be an overwhelming journey. I hope by providing you with this information I can ease your frustrations and confusion leaving you confident and empowered as you advocate for your child.
Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing a great job.
I hope this information has been helpful to you as part of creating Your Autism Game Plan.
Do you have a topic you’d like to learn more about? Email me at email@example.comTell Me More!
All my videos offer unbiased, actionable advice for your most common autism challenges.