For a child with Autism, Stimming is an abbreviated term for Self Stimulating behaviour.
It is a necessary element for the Autistic child in that it seems to be a way for them to make sense of all that is going on around them. It can also be termed as Zoning Out.
Stimming can manifest in many ways. It can be displayed as flapping, an obsessiveness with a particular item or the way that it is moving or self injurious like biting of the hands or knuckles to name but a few.
No two children with Autism are the same so it is quite natural that there will be many forms of Self Stimulating behaviours.
For the Autistic child, this is a needed outlet and if the stimming takes a form that is not inappropriate, it should not be restricted. It seems to act as a self control method for them to calm themselves and even, in some ways, to digest information.
Stimming seems to manifest on a larger, more intense scale when the child with Autism is in a situation that they are not entirely comfortable with which could be as small as a person entering a room that they are not familiar with or an assembly hall which could be filled with many people and lots of noise.
For a child with Autism, stimming is a necessary outlet. It can be reduced somewhat by controlling the external environment e.g. dimming the lights or lowering noise levels. However, to attempt to completely eradicate it may not be the correct thing to do as it may be replaced by the Autististic child with another stim that may be less appropriate.
It may be far more beneficial to both the Autistic child and the caregiver to develop a means of encouraging the child to use their stims at home or in privacy thereby decreasing the risk of being socially ostracized by their peers if they were to use them in public.
Some children with Autism are not even aware of their flapping but if gently reminded, they will attempt to halt it themselves if they are in a place where it could be looked on as an anomaly.
With some Autistic children, their stimming can be used as a positive tool to encourage social interaction.
For example, if the child with Autism’s particular stim is ripping paper then if you were to join in and rip paper too, after a while, you would notice that the Autistic child will look to see what you are doing. This is especially true when in the past, you have tried to discourage stimming.
Every look should be responded to with positive feedback e.g. “Great, you looked at me” or “Wow, what pretty blue eyes you have” or something similar. In time, this will open the door to more social interaction with the Autistic child sometimes handing you paper to rip or seeking you out so that you can participate in their stim.
Any time that the Autistic child spends interacting with you is less time they are spending in their own world which should be the ultimate goal. A paper ripping session today could turn into next weeks jigsaw puzzle with slow, positive guidance from you.
The three major areas that children with Autism have problems in are: Communication, Play and Social Interaction. If you can increase their socialization skills, then you can only be helping the other two areas to increase also.