Many non-autistic people have a lot of misonceptions about “stimming” (also called self-stimulatory behaviors). Some of them believe that stimming is a result of boredom, while others believe that autistics stim for fun… and yet others are still hopelessly confused as to why autistic people behave so “strangely.”
Everyone stims a little bit, and its true that in some cases, stimming can curb boredom or bring happiness.
But when autistic people stim, it usually serves a deeper purpose.
Stimming for autistic people is a means of self-regulation. It helps autistic people learn, feel comfortable and safe, and handle their emotions.
Stimming is not meant to collect a child’s boredom, it is meant to be a built-in self-soothing mechanism that helps with emotional regulation and learning.
“In an initial ABA session, a therapist might enforce the suppression of an autistic client’s self-stimulatory behaviors, which is merely a visceral reaction to seek meaningful change in one’s environment in an effort to prevent sensory overload.”– C. L. Lynch
Forcing a child to stop stimming is effectively removing their ability to comfort themselves in a stressful situation- and ABA intends to stop stimming altogether.
Stimming is a critically important behavior that should not be stopped, and any therapy that exists to stop it is removing a child’s ability to cope with stress and increasing the likelihood that they will have a meltdown simply to make their behaviors less unusual.
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