Stimming or stim- a self-stimulatory behavior that pretty much all people with autism do to regulate their nervous systems, handle stress, anxiety, noise and excitement in their own way. This is something all of their neuro typical parents fear. Why? Well, when they are stimming they are not responding to us most of the time. They are lost in “that world” the world where non autistics don’t go, the one where we as parents do not feel wanted, the one we fear as that was where our children were as babies when they were unreachable pretty much most of the time. As they got older, whether they became verbal or not, chances are they got more reachable, they joined us in our world and we felt, great our child is here now. Let’s teach them. Let’s have a relationship with them. But did we join them in their world? In short, yes.
With Michael, this was something I fought for years, stopping him stimming. He likes to rock and “clink” his chewy or any other kind of soft toy. He carries it everywhere, and if he is told at school, camp or at an activity to put it down he will. He will also put it down for logistics like eating, showering and toileting, but he will need it the rest of the time. I fought for a while to try and get him at first to stop stimming, not understanding that it is as essential as breathing for him as it is for all autistic people. You see, I was afraid of stims, and as a parent I still have to stop myself when he is stimming from panicking a little that my little boy will be so happy doing that he won’t want a relationship with me. I used to even tell the grandparents when he was younger to interrupt the stim and try and stop it. I’ve known better for years now. The only thing I do tell him, and that is as much for his making his way easier in the world, that he should stim a limited amount of time in public when he is with other people and do more at home. I tell Michael this both so he could be more in the moment with others, and also so he does not get comments and stares from people that do not understand. When he is home he can stim when he likes. This particular weekend he admitted he got carried away stimming and ended up going to bed late. Dad and I gently reminded him even at home, he has control over it, and can decide when to stop.
As a parent, it took me years to change the mindset of seeing this practice as helping my child. I read and continue to follow many wonderful blogs written by autistic adults, one in particular that talked about stimming parties he had with his autistic friends. Last night at bedtime, I spoke to Michael about this. His response? “Wow, Mommy. That sounds so cool. You mean a party where I could stim with my friends?” It has really opened up my eyes about what Michael and other people with autism need. I also have some wonderful friends who though not autistic, have had mental health issues themselves like me. Their brain also works a little differently than the so-called norm. One of them once said to me, “Have you ever tried joining Michael in the stim? Do the dance Joanne.” How beautifully put. And I thought, yes, yes. She is right. As soon as I stopped fearing the unknown to my brain, that was when my relationship with Michael deepened. I wished I had known this when he was younger, but at least I learned it in his early childhood years. I now see how his stims are a part of him, just like his interests and his physical appearance, just like his smile and the rest of his personality. There is not one thing I would change about Michael. He is perfect in every way. I want to help him be successful at life, handle our world the best way he can. As I’ve said before, it’s a stressful world for those of us without different brains and sensory systems. For our kkids, it’s a daily battle to get through it sometimes. They, and the adults with neuro developmental differences around us, are the unsung heroes of our times.
Exceptional Parents, do you “do the dance” with your Exceptional Children or do you fight it? It’s scary I know. You don’t want to feel you are losing them again. Here’s a secret. You won’t. You’ve shown them how cool our world can be with you and other loved ones in it. There’s neat things for them, even with all the stress that goes with it. So join them in their world once in a while. Let them take you by the hand and guide you on the adventure of what things look like from their perspective. If they see you trust them, they’ll trust you all the more. Happy trails ahead. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker and parent coach whose son with autism has shown me a whole new way to see the world and embrace the joy of the moment! I believe in empowering parents to trust their own instincts when it comes to their children, and in helping them parent with love, respect and confidence towards their child.
For more information on my coaching services, see my website: www.creatingexceptionalparentingg.com, and for a free 30 minute exploration/consultation session contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also to receive a copy of my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” click on www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/EBOOKS.