What can/do others do to calm you down?

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27 Jan 2013, 8:59 am

As I understand it, one stims when one is uncomfortable, he is my son and I want to comfort him.

I stim for many reasons. I can identify three main categories of stims I engage in.

Firstly, background stims. These ones I tend to do very frequently, especially when I'm concentrating. I'm often unaware I'm doing them. They indicate very little, if anything, about my current mood - more often if anything seems to trigger them it's a sensory aspect like things being too quiet or me having sit still too long. These are the hardest to suppress, if I want to, because I often don't realize I'm doing them.

Secondly, emotion stims. These express emotions, just like facial expressions or body language. Not just unhappy ones, though - I also have some happy stims. (If you go on youtube and search for 'happy dance autism' you'll find a bunch of autistic people showing off their happy stims.) These can be suppressed about as easily as not smiling when you're happy or not crying when you're sad.

Thirdly, play stims. These are ones I do consciously and deliberately, specifically because I like to do them. These are the easiest to suppress, because I chose whether or not to do them, but they often serve a purpose of amusing, calming or reassuring me.

In my experience working with autistic kids, it seems that their stims fall into these categories too. But which stims fall into which category is unique to each person.

For me:

Background stims - hair-twirling, gentle rocking, chewing my lip, biting my nails, picking at scabs (these last three I try to suppress if I can because they can cause pain if done too much)

Happy stims - jumping, hand-flapping, trilling or squealing

Unhappy stims - vigorous rocking, hand-shaking (different from flapping because my palms are vertical instead of horizontal and my wrists are rigid), arching my back, monotonous wailing, also my self-injury (punching myself, biting myself)

Deliberate stims - sometimes my hair-twirling falls in this category, and also flicking my fingers in my peripheral vision or flicking my hand through elaborate motions in the light, and staring at shiny things while either rocking or moving the shiny thing

For your son it'll probably be different, but I'm guessing if he doesn't have stims of every type, he has at least more than just unhappy stims.


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27 Jan 2013, 10:07 am

I don't know what you could do with your son to calm him down? Does he have a favourite object? Maybe give that to him, or would he just throw it if he's in a state? If he's just stimming, leave him and wait 'til he calms down a bit, then perhaps give him his favourite object (if any).

When I'm having a meltdown, I don't stim (never have)> I just cry and scream and swear and stomp around. Someone giving me a cuddle always calms me down, but not many people with ASDs like being touched, especially when angry or whatever. I'm just an exception.

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27 Jan 2013, 1:34 pm

I usually stim when I'm excited or really happy....it's like having a lot of extra energy that needs to get run off somehow. For me, anyway. I don't necessarily do it when I'm anxious or sad - although I do sometimes quietly sing to myself when I'm in a noisy, crowded place like my University's cafeteria.

Thinking back over my last response to this thread, I suppose being wrapped up in a tight bear hug (notice I did not say restraint, but a bear hug) would work for me too, when I'm anxious, scared, or angry.

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27 Jan 2013, 8:36 pm

lattes wrote:
Oh, as a note. It isn't that I want my son not to stim or that it makes me uncomfortable.

As I understand it, one stims when one is uncomfortable, he is my son and I want to comfort him.

Like other people have said, there are other reasons for stimming besides discomfort.

When it is caused by discomfort, stimming is his way of calming down. The best thing to do is to just let him be until he calms down.

Imagine if you'd had a hard day at work, everyone was bugging you, you got stuck in traffic, and when you got home you just wanted to relax with a good book for a while, but someone was all over you insisting that they had to make it better.
That's what it feels like not to be left alone when I'm trying to wind down; and I'd imagine it's the same for your son.

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27 Jan 2013, 9:28 pm

lattes wrote:
I am a NT dad (not really but let's go with NT for now) with a 6yo AS son.

I am still trying to figure all this stuff out so please bear with me.

My son will stim to calm himself down in a number of ways, what is the best thing others can do to help you when you are stimming? How about when you were a kid?

I ask because I know that sometimes taking him in my arms/lap helps a lot, and sometimes he just bats me away. I respect either decision. A lot of the time jokes help, but sometimes not.

Thanks so much

Why on earth do you want to help him when he's stimming? Unless the stimming activity is dangerous in some way, you should let him be. He will either be finding pleasure in it or releasing stress, sometimes maybe showing excitement. If you are sure that he is stimming from stress, when I am stressed/overwhelmed etc. I need everyone to leave me totally alone. That means not even talking to me, I need to preferably shut myself away. My autistic daughter pushes away hugs (as do I if I am stressed), I think it is because it's yet another sensory experience being loaded on to an already overloaded system.

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27 Jan 2013, 10:00 pm

Can you elaborate on his stiming? What exactly does he do?