Stims are self-stimulating, repetitious behaviors, and are probably one of the more recognizable characteristics of Autism. It’s not enough to say that they are willing to stim, but that there is also this definite need to stim. In determining whether or not a behavior is a stim, I often ask myself, is the behavior repetitious? Does my child make eye contact while doing the behavior? Does my kiddo seem to be in his own world?
Stims aren’t limited to activities with objects (wall staring, for example). Repeating movie lines, hopping from one side of the room to the other, playing the same song over and over, asking the same questions over and over, spinning, and the list goes on and on. For the verbal kiddos, your child can still speak to you and still engage in stimming, so don’t just assume that because your child is talking to you that s/he is interacting with you.
My kids are in their own world when they stim, and they are quite comfortable being there. I am always asked what is a stim and how will I know it when I see it? A stim is done exclusively, without any interaction from another. Check out your kiddo’s eye contact. Can you see how they are almost always not looking at any one person, but rather the activity s/he is engaged in? They continue on as if no one is in the room, as if no one is around. Observe those that are Neurotypical. Look at how they engage with others both verbally and nonverbally. They give off tons of interactive cues. There are no interactive cues given off when my children stim. I have watched my children often and I take extra care to note times in which they are not responsive when they are engaged in an activity, even if that activity seems socially appropriate, such as reading a book, or watching tv, or surfing the web. I then ask myself, “if I were to interrupt my child while he was doing whatever it was he was doing, would he then pay attention to me?”
We all can zone out on an activity, such as watching tv or reading a book, or some other exclusive activity, the difference between those without Autism (neurotypical) and some with Autism is that those with ASD do not often stop a stim to give attention to another person or activity. Neurotypical individuals can. I’m fairly sure that if my youngest who stims quite often while on the internet will still sit there, even if the entire area around him were engulfed in flames. He is that involved in whatever it is that he is doing. For him, it may be a matter of him frequently choosing not to leave his own little world, for whatever reason, whereas my oldest, I feel that he might have a harder time actually doing so.