Stimming is very important to me. I stim when I’m happy, when I’m nervous, when I’m thinking, and when my senses are overloaded.
First of all, what is stimming? The verbose name is self-stimulation, and that sums it up without actually describing it at all. It is a repetitive action that stimulates — provides sensory input.
What purpose does it serve? Well, for me it is generally a form of negative feedback that allows me to regulate my senses. Negative in the sense that it modulates other sensory input and makes it easier for me to process: the input might be sound, touch — even emotion, which as I’ve described before has a large component of physical sensation.
Some examples: when I’m thinking I will often hum, rock in my seat or jiggle my leg. This provides a comfortable background signal that helps prevent distractions by allowing me to better ignore what is going on around me.
When I’m nervous or struggling to cope with a noisy environment I stroke my hands and fingers which is a very calming sensation for me. I find that I am able to last much longer before the overload on my senses forces me to withdraw either physically or mentally.
And when I’m happy or excited I flap my hands. I don’t do this as much or as often as I’d like because I developed an inhibition against doing it as a child when I was teased: I find it sad that I’m reluctant to behave naturally and so I’m working on doing this more often.
Flapping is more than just a stim for me: it is an expression of joy. Unlike my other stims this one is a form of positive feedback that intensifies the pleasure I feel: it can’t just be coincidence that flappy rhymes with happy.
As part of an effort to raise awareness of stimming I have become involved in Night of the Living Stim a Twitter-based live event this Thursday 17th from 7 to 9pm EST (that’s 18th October from 1am to 3am in the UK). Using the hashtag #LvngStm in conjunction with Lynne Soraya’s weekly LIAS chat (check out @LynneSoraya and #LIASchat) this will be an opportunity to talk about stims, ask questions, post links to blogs and videos about stimming and just generally celebrate everything about it.
For further stimming-related awesomeness check out The Stimming Checklist. This is a website that was the brainchild of Autisticook and Nattily of Notes on Crazy and myself have been lending a hand. It’s early days yet, but we’ve gotten some great ideas and it will be taking shape over the coming weeks…