• info@ikefoundationforautism.org
  • +234 811 010 6000



Repetitive self stimulatory behaviors like hand flapping, spinning, shaking are all very mysterious to someone without autism. Autism Stimming or stim is a kind of self stimulation and is one of the many indicators of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A person who stims shows repetitive body movements that can involve all five senses or moving objects in a repetitive motion.

What causes stimming in autistic children.

Over-stimulation: When there are too many sensory inputs, focusing attention away from overwhelming feelings.

Under-stimulation: When there is not enough sensory input or feeling, stimming can allow stimulation of the senses and creating pleasure.

Reduction of pain: Engaging in a different activity causes the body to relax.

Self regulation: Overcome anxiety, express distress etc

Hand flapping and autism

Of all the stimming behaviors, hand-flapping is one that is quite noticeable in kids with ASD. It is a type of repetitive behavior that can occur for short or long duration

There are various ways that this self-stimulatory behavior exhibit itself:

  • Moving fingers vigorously
  • Clicking fingers
  • Moving arms

When to worry about hand flapping

Most of the time, it is nothing to worry about and can be triggered by any of the following:

  • Excitement
  • Nervousness
  • Fidgeting
  • Decreased body movements

This would only be a problem if it results in self harm or gets in the way of their daily living ability or ability to function in the world.

Types of stimming

Verbal and auditory stimming: Auditory stimming is anything that affects a person’s sense of hearing. It may include:

  • Repetitive speech; learned words like song lyrics, movie lines, book passages.
  • Covering or tapping of ears, snapping fingers, or tapping on objects repeatedly
  • Humming, grunting, or high-pitched noises

Visual stimming: Visual stimming is anything that uses a person’s sense of sight. It may include:

  • Staring blankly at objects
  • Hand-flapping
  • Lining up objects such as toys
  • Blinking repeatedly
  • Turning lights on and off

Tactile stimming: Tactile stimming refers to a person’s sense of touch. It may include:

  • Rubbing or scratching of hands or objects
  • Repetitive hand motions such as opening and closing fists
  • Tapping fingers repeatedly
  • Tactile defensiveness

Vestibular stimming: Vestibular stimming refers to a person’s sense of balance and movement. It may include:

  • Rocking back and forth or side to side
  • Twirling or spinning
  • Jumping repeatedly
  • Hanging upside down

Olfactory or taste stimming: Olfactory stimming affects a person’s sense of taste and smell. It includes repetitive motions like the following:

  • Smelling objects
  • Tasting unusual objects
  • Licking hands or object

How to reduce stimming.

Rule out medical conditions: Some medical conditions like ear infections, migraines, and physical pain can worsen stimming behaviors, so it’s important to have this checked and addressed as soon as possible particularly if the autistic child is non verbal.

Exercise: Studies have shown that exercise and other physical activities can release tension and lessen stimming in children with autism. Engaging children with autism in exercise a few minutes every day might help greatly reduce stimming.

Create a calm and safe environment: To prevent stress and anxiety that can often cause stimming, make it a practice to have a quiet space at home. This ensures that most outside factors that trigger stimming are avoided, giving the best possible environment for the child.

Use stimming as a reward: Stimming can be offered as a reward after a challenging activity. With this strategy, the child has the freedom to be himself/herself and will possibly stim less throughout the rest of the day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *