What Is Stimming?

Stimming is short for self-stimulation. Stimming is a repetitive body movement, such as hand flapping. Stimming is commonly found in Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder, but also found in other developmental disabilities. This behavior may involve any or all of the senses in various degrees in different individuals.

When children are hypersensitive, or overly sensitive to stimuli they possibly may engage in stimming because they want to reduce stimulation, because they perceive their environments and surroundings  to be too loud, bright or too much to handle. 

When children are hyposensitive, or under-responsive to stimuli they have the  opposite effects and stimming may actually increase arousal. You may notice they are engaging in self-stimulatory behaviors that are providing them with sensory excitement. You may notice  flapping there arms, spinning, licking and sucking on toys. 

Stimming may become self-injurious behavior such as head banging or biting their hands. Not all self-injurious behaviors are considered stimming. Self-injurious behavior could also be your child trying to tell you that they are frustrated. 

There's a few reasons why individuals may engage in self-stimulatory behavior, and it's not always the same reasons for each person. . It may be that the behavior provides sensory reinforcement or sensory stimulation to the individual, or the behavior may be used to regulate sensory input, either increasing stimulation or decreasing sensory overload.

This is a list of self-stimulatory behaviors. (stimming)

Visual Stimming 

1. Dangling items in front of face such as grass or strings.

2. Shaking toys.

3. Wiggling fingers in front of or to the side of face---most often in exactly the
same spot.

4. Lining up toys and other objects.

5. Repeatedly stacking toys and knocking them down excessively.

6. Spinning wheels on toy cars/trucks.

7. Pushing toy trucks and cars while tilting head to watch wheels.

8. Staring out the window or watching out the window at cars driving by.

9. Watching ceiling fans.

10. Staring at lights in the room.

11. Looking sideways and/or upside down at TV. Looking closely at the TV.

12. Flipping pages without looking at pictures.

13. Opening/shutting drawers and doors.

14. Spinning bowls and toys.

15. Walking in patterns.

16. Splashing or watching water.

17. Running sand or beans through hands while watching them. 

18. Spinning coins.

19. Lining up chairs, laundry baskets, boxes and storage containers.

20. Holding up small toys (usually characters) in front of TV while video is on.

21. Throwing or dropping toys receptively.

22. Ripping or shredding paper.

23. Standing on head on furniture.

24. Running in circles.

25. Rewinding a video while watching it rewind.

26. Excessive drawing or coloring. 

27. Watching a yoyo with peripheral vision over and over

28. Obsessively pouring a "slinky" from one hand to the other.

29. Repetitive cartwheels excessively.

30. Head shaking.

31. Spinning own body and twirling.

32. Twirling long hair or braids (girls) in peripheral vision.

33. Watching their own reflection in items such as toasters, windows at night, shiny faucets, tv screen when off and mirrrors.

 Vestibular Stimming

1. Spinning repeatedly. 
2. Swinging. 

3. Pacing back and forth.

4. Jumping over and over.

5. Bouncing repeatedly. 

6. Rocking from foot to foot. 

7. Rocking back and forth while sitting. 

8. Rocking from side to side while sitting.
Olfactory Smell Stimming
1. Smelling objects. 

2. Sniffing people. 

Taste Stimming 
1. Licking objects. 

2. Putting objects in mouth. 

3. Licking themselves. 

4. Chewing on objects. 

 Tactile Stimming

1. Chewing on insides of cheeks. 

2. Biting and chewing fingernails.

3, Rubbing clothing between fingers. 

4. Scratching obsessively until they're bleeding. 

5. Head banging. 

6. Teeth grinding. 

7. Spitting. 

8. Rubbing face and hands. 

9. Scratching or rubbing the skin with hands. 

10. Scratching or rubbing the skin with another object. 

11. Tapping surfaces with fingers.
Auditory Stimming
1. Blurting out loud or yelling high pitched noises. 

2. Repetition of odd noises or sounds such as grunting. giggling, humming, snorting, throat clearing or snapping fingers.
3. Talking to themselves excessively and nondirective. 

4. Echolalia, repeating portions of videos, books or songs at inappropriate times.

5. Banging on everything. Pounding toys or books.

6. Excessive pretend play or constantly singing. 

7. Repeating the same game, video scene, T.V show or telling the same story or reciting alphabet over and over. 

8. Tapping on ears or objects. Covering and uncovering ears. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not an Occupational Therapist. I am an adult who has Sensory Processing Disorder, a sensory parent and a Grandma. The information on this website is not medical advice and does not replace the information that your child's therapists gives you. These are just ideas and information that I have learned myself over the years of being a parent and an adult living with SPD. If you are concerned for your child, please always seek medical attention through a family doctor, pediatrician or therapist. This website is for suggestions and informational purposes only. Each child is different and what works for one child may not for another because all children have different needs. Please always consult with a professional.

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