To Stim or not to Stim

During our recent EI evaluation, A demonstrated several of his stimming behaviors.  He finds great pleasure in repeatedly spinning a lid to a toy drum we have, as well as shaking his head back and forth.  I believe the lid (or plate, or anything round and mostly flat) is a visual stim for him and the head shaking is vestibular.

Living in our family is hard work.  Both my husband and I hold full time jobs out of the home and our boys are by no means the easy going, carefree types.  By the time I get home from work it is a race to make dinner, eat, do the dishes, take baths, get A to bed, give B some alone time, get B to bed, pick up all the messes left behind from the day and then pass out.  All the while, B is hanging on me, wanting my attention and has 57 questions to ask me and A wants to be held and nursed.

It is difficult to get just about anything done.  We are trying so hard to teach A how to play independently, but he just has a really hard time with it.  We might get 30 minutes total of independent play time from him during the entire day.

…back to the EI evaluation.  When the evaluator saw A sitting and spinning his drum lid over and over, she asked me, “do you ever try to redirect or take away the lid when he does this?”  My husband and I looked at each both thinking, well of course we should be doing that!

We don’t usually redirect; we just let him stim away.  Interrupting a stim causes epic meltdowns.  Of course it only makes sense that I should start teaching him other mechanisms to self-soothe and be independent.  I should have been redirecting all along.

It is just so easy not to though.  Once he opens the drawer with all his little plastic plates in it, I know I have a good 5-10 minutes to myself.  I might be able to load the dishwasher or check my email without interruption or hug B without a meltdown from A.  So I don’t stop him.  I let him stim because it means that I get a break too.

I have been thinking a lot about this since Monday.  I have read several articles online and tried to form some opinions on the matter.  On one hand, spinning those plates makes him happy and gives him some independence.  On the other hand it takes him out of our world and into his own.

When does it become a problem? Is my 10 minutes of sanity reason enough to let him go to his own world? If I continue to let it happen, is it going to get more intense over time? Is it really helping him be independent or is it letting him fall away from us?

I with there where a guide book; one firm answer one way or another.  So tell me ASD moms… to stim or not to stim, that is my question.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. spectrummymummy
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 16:00:29

    I asked my developmental pediatrician this question last year, and she told me that whenever the child is engage in a stim, s/he isn’t engaged, and isn’t learning, therefore isn’t developing. She recommended Engaging Autism by Greenspan for an introduction on his Floortime approach. Now with Pudding some stims just had to be stopped. She liked touching other kids’ hair, which freaked them out, but I allow her to twirl her own. It comforts her when she is anxious.
    Some stims are a cry for sensory intervention. So if she is bouncing up and down a lot, I get her to use the mini-trampoline. If she is spinning, I try to get out to the playground and put her on the swings, or get spectrummy daddy to swing her. It is about making the activity more purposeful and interactive. Some of them though, I just let go. We all stim in our own ways. If it isn’t harmful, or she is at home and needs a release, I often let it go. We’ve done a lot of Floortime play, and she is engaged most of the time, but it is hard work trying to get a kid to stop something that feels good! I’d say a lot of it depends on the kid, the stim, and the social context. Hope that helps!


  2. autismisnot
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 09:16:43

    That makes good sense and was what my gut was telling me. Thanks for your reply.


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