Living The Reality of Asperger’s

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Stimming

© Kelly Jeanne 2022

Have you ever been to thKe dentist where after you’ve just been injected with a numbing agent they tap your cheek in a fast and repetitive motion? Why?

Have you ever been to a salon to have the upper hair on your lip removed and immediately after they pull the cloth off, they’ll tap your upper lip or cheek in quick, repetitive motions for the same purpose; to distract your mind from the pain of the wax ripping your hair out. Again, not every salon worker does this.

What about when you’ve had your blood drawn at the hospital? After the nurse withdraws the needle, they may tap in quick, repeated motions, the area where the needle was inserted. This is to alleviate any discomfort you may have felt while the needle was in or being taken out.

Mind you, I’m not talking about the tapping of the vein before they insert the needle. That’s done when they either can’t find a vein or they’re trying to get a vein to pop up.

Stimming stands for ‘stimulating’ or ‘self-stimulating’. It’s a repetitive action that’s performed as a way to self-soothe the one dealing with either physical pain or emotional pain. It doesn’t take the pain away. It simply serves to take the mind off any physical discomfort or to relieve emotional stress and anxiety.

When you go to the beach, do you stop to pick up a stone, especially a smooth one, and rub your thumb along it over and over? How many of you have ever purchased worry stones? Those glass smooth stones with thumb indents. You may find yourself rubbing it over and over again while watching TV. What about those stress balls made of spongy material? These are also used to relieve stress. A side bonus is that they strengthen your hands! You’ve probably found yourself squeezing those balls over and over again to no end, right?

Wow! Think of that? Companies that sell products to aid the average consumer in stimming. How much you want to bet these companies aren’t thinking of those on the spectrum when they mass produce these products. In other words, if companies make such products – and make a pretty good profit on top of it! – then it’s pretty much understood that ‘stimming’ isn’t just an ‘Autism’ thing.

Biting your lips, biting your nails, playing with your hair or your beard and moustache, any repetitive motion you use to calm yourself down. This is stimming.

What I find especially interesting about all the examples I gave above regarding professionals who perform these ritual on their clients, is that if you ask them why they’re doing it, they will tell you what a dentist told me when I asked him. He said,

“To distract you from the discomfort of the shot.”

There’s probably a good chance that most of these people who work in these professions aren’t on the spectrum, yet they performed these actions on their clients all the time without even realizing that what they are doing is stimming. The last one about the worry stones and the stress balls is even more amazing, because it means that a bunch of neurotypical got together with this idea and now they are being mass produced worldwide! This tells me – and should tell you – that everybody stims and there’s no shame in it!

Most people associate stimming with those who are on the spectrum.

The act of stimming for the neurodiverse is going to be more often and much stronger. This is because those on the spectrum are much more sensitive to outer stimuli. Our eyes are much more sensitive to light, our hearing is more acute, as is our sense of smell and taste. Our sense of touch is more profound. We feel emotions more deeply and we’re much deeper thinkers than the average person.

All of this means that those on the spectrum may have the need to self-soothe more frequently. Stimming is natural and needed. It helps our minds to regulate and reboot, if you will, so we can get back on track.

Think about how you would feel, as a neurotypical, when you become nervous or impatient, so you start drumming your fingers (a form of stimming) on the table and someone told you to stop it. Now what do you do with all this nervous energy? That would be torturous.

nother way to look at stimming as simply a way to get rid of the pent up energy when you become nervous, angry, anxious, sad, even happy. That energy has to go somewhere and if you’re not allowed to release it; to express it in some manner, it can have devastating effects. As frustrating as it would be for you, imagine how frustrating it would be for someone whose whole central nervous system is constantly on red alert?

Now imagine someone such as yourself, who may not be on the spectrum, is fitted with a remote devise intended to shock you if you are caught ‘acting up’? This is inhuman; torture. No one would want to receive a shock for doing an act that is a normal expression of nervous energy. You would call that barbaric.

Take someone who’s neurodiverse; whose senses are greatly magnified up to 300% or more. This means the need to stim; to self-soothe is more frequent than that of the average person. Sadly, this isn’t understood by many – even those who work in the mental health field. As a result the one who has Autism/Asperger’s ends up being shocked more often. Just as energy cannot be created, neither can it be destroyed. This means that the energy has to have some outlet and the person who is repeatedly shocked for ‘acting out’ is eventually going to find another avenue for that energy. This could result in crying, shouting out, or jumping up and down, or any number of ways that are not considered socially acceptable. The result is even more severe punishment for those who are only expressing themselves in a way that is natural for them.

Behavior Modification never works for anybody – on or off the spectrum. We are people and should not be treated like Pavlov’s dogs. Even Pavlov’s dogs should never have been treated like that!

We like to think of ourselves as civilized, but there are still places around the world who treat those on the spectrum like this.

Behavior Modification never works for anybody – on or off the spectrum. We are people and should not be treated like Pavlov’s dogs. Even Pavlov’s dogs should never have been treated like that!

We like to think of ourselves as civilized, but there are still places around the world who treat those on the spectrum like this.

Stimming is a natural way that ALL of us use to soothe ourselves when we find ourselves in physical or emotional discomfort or pain.

Can you think of ways that you stim?

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2 thoughts on “Living The Reality of Asperger’s

  1. I have a squeezy ball – I used to squeeze it when donating blood, back in the day… I happened to come across it yesterday, and you’ve reminded me I can use it to help strengthen my arthritis-y hands. Thanks!
    My four-year-old grandson used to stim when excited, by shaking his hands (which tended to shake the rest of his body when standing). Now he claps instead. I think he must have picked up at playschool that this was what other children did when excited.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your response regarding the squeezy ball made me laugh! I’m thinking, “Cathy, I didn’t write this to remind you to exercise your hand!” It was too funny! 🤣
    A couple of years ago my caregiver bought me two squeezy balls that have the face of cats. They are so creepy though, because they look like real cats! I’ll take a photo of them sometime and post it here. You won’t believe how life like they look. They give me the creeps.
    Regarding your grandson, that could be. I’m hoping that it’s not a case where the teacher told him he had to find another way to express himself. That happens too often.

    P.S. Are you getting notifications now?

    Like

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