Self-stimulatory behavior, also known as stimming and self-stimulation, is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders. It is considered a way which people with autism calm and stimulate themselves. Therapists view this behavior as a protective response to being overly sensitive to stimuli, with which the individual blocks less predictable environmental stimuli. Sensory processing disorder is also blamed by some therapists for the condition. Another theory is that stimming is a way to relieve anxiety, and other emotions.
Common stimming behaviors (sometimes called stims) include: hand flapping, rocking, head banging, repeating noises or words, snapping fingers, spinning objects, etc. Stimming is almost always a symptom of autism, but it is also regarded as part of some non-autistic individuals' behavioral patterns. The biggest difference between normal and autistic stimming is the choice of stim and the quantity of stimming.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, this type of behavior is listed as one of the symptoms of autism or a "stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms". There are numerous ways to reduce or eliminate stereotypic behaviors. Some of them include providing an individual with alternative, more socially-appropriate, forms of stimulation; drugs are also used to reduce these behaviors (however, it is not clear whether the drugs actually reduce the behaviors directly or indirectly).
- Rosalind Bergemann (2013). An Asperger Leader's Guide to Living and Leading Change. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 9780857008725.
- Valerie Foley (2011). The Autism Experience. ReadHowYouWant.com. ISBN 9781458797285.
- Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D. (date unknown). "Self-Stimulatory Behavior". Autism Research Institute.
- Gretchen Mertz Cowell (2004). Help for the Child with Asperger's Syndrome: A Parent's Guide to Negotiating the Social Service Maze. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 9781846420429.
- Eileen Bailey (July 15, 2011). "Autism Spectrum Disorders and Anxiety". Health Central. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- Temple Grandin, PhD (November/December 2011). "Why Do Kids with Autism Stim?". Autism Digest. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- Eileen Bailey (August 27, 2012). "Stimming". Health Central. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- "Stimming: What autistic people do to feel calmer". BBC. 5 June 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- Lisa Jo Rudy (October 13, 2009). "Stimming". About.com. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
- “Autism Spectrum Disorders,” 1994, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, American Psychiatric Association
- Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D. (date unknown). "Self-Injurious Behavior". Autism Research Institute. Retrieved 29 March 2014.