Jade ABA Therapy

Types of Stimming Autism

Stimming, which is short for self-stimulatory behavior, refers to repetitive and stereotyped movements or sounds that individuals with autism engage in. 

Stimming behaviors, such as hand-flapping, spinning in circles, finger flicking, and twirling, are common in individuals with autism. These behaviors can be excessive and obtrusive, but they serve various purposes for autistic individuals.

Also, stimming can serve as a tool for emotional self-regulation. Autistic individuals often experience sensory processing challenges, leading to over-responses or under-responses to stimuli like sounds, light, textures, and smells. Stimming behaviors help them cope with these sensory differences and regulate their emotions.

In this article, we’re going to look at the different types of stimming that autistic individuals tend to experience. If you’re considering options like ABA therapy in Maryland to assist with these challenges, understanding stimming behaviors can provide valuable insights into supporting autistic individuals effectively.

types of stimming

Types of Stimming Behaviors

Stimming behaviors are a common characteristic of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and play a significant role in emotional regulation. Understanding the different types of stimming can provide valuable insights into the unique experiences of individuals with autism. 

Without further ado, here are the different types of stimming:

Visual and Auditory Stimming

Visual stimming behaviors involve repetitive actions related to visual perception. Individuals may engage in activities such as staring at moving objects, repeatedly blinking their eyes, or turning lights off and on. These behaviors can serve as a way to self-regulate and find comfort in visual stimuli.

Auditory stimming, on the other hand, revolves around repetitive actions related to sound and hearing. It may manifest as playing the same song or sound repeatedly, clicking fingers, clapping hands, or making repetitive vocalizations. Auditory stimming can provide individuals with a sense of rhythm, predictability, and stimulation.

By engaging in visual and auditory stimming, individuals with autism may find a sense of familiarity and calmness in their environment. These behaviors can serve as a coping mechanism and help regulate their emotions and sensory experiences.

types of stimming in autism

Tactile and Verbal Stimming

Tactile stimming involves repetitive actions that provide sensory input through touch and physical sensations. Examples of tactile stimming include rubbing hands together, squeezing objects, rocking back and forth, or leaning against surfaces. 

These actions can provide individuals with autism a way to modulate their sensory experiences and seek comfort through tactile stimulation.

Verbal stimming refers to repetitive vocalizations or sounds without an apparent communicative purpose. Individuals may repeat the same word, phrase, or sound over and over again. Verbal stimming can manifest as whistling, tongue-clicking, or making repetitive noises. It serves as a way for individuals with autism to regulate their emotions, release tension, or provide self-soothing sensory feedback.

Tactile and verbal stimming behaviors allow individuals with autism to engage with their sensory environment and establish a sense of control and comfort. These stimming behaviors should be understood as a natural response to the world around them, helping them navigate their experiences and emotions.

autism stimming examples

Oral and Olfactory Stimming

Oral and olfactory stimming involves sensory behaviors related to the mouth and sense of smell. Individuals may engage in repetitive actions that provide oral or olfactory stimulation. 

Examples of oral stimming include biting, chewing, licking, sucking on objects, or touching objects with the tongue or teeth. These behaviors can help individuals regulate their sensory experiences and provide a soothing effect.

Similarly, olfactory stimming involves repetitive actions related to the sense of smell. This may include sniffing objects, touching scented items, or seeking out specific smells. The olfactory system plays a significant role in our sensory experiences, and individuals with autism may find comfort or sensory satisfaction through olfactory stimming.

Vestibular and Proprioceptive Stimming

Vestibular and proprioceptive stimming behaviors are associated with movement and body awareness. These types of stimming are related to repetitive actions involving balance and the person’s understanding of their body’s position and movements.

Vestibular stimming examples can include spinning around, rocking back and forth, jumping, pacing, or engaging in repetitive movements that provide a sense of movement and balance. These actions can help individuals regulate their sensory input and provide a calming effect.

On the other hand, proprioceptive stimming involves repetitive actions that provide deep pressure or sensory input to the muscles and joints. Examples may include squeezing objects, throwing objects, hand-flapping, or engaging in repetitive movements that provide a sense of body awareness. Proprioceptive stimming can help individuals regulate their sensory experiences and provide a grounding effect.

examples of oral stimming

Common Stimming Examples

Stimming behaviors in individuals with autism spectrum disorder can manifest in various ways, ranging from full-body movements to more localized behaviors. These stimming behaviors serve different purposes and can be attributed to different sensory experiences. 

Let’s explore some common examples of stimming in autism.

Full-Body Movements

Full-body movements are a type of stimming behavior that involves engaging multiple body parts or the entire body in repetitive motions. These movements often provide individuals with autism a way to regulate their sensory experiences and express their emotions.

Some examples of full-body movements include:

  • Rocking back and forth – This rhythmic motion, often performed while sitting or standing, can help individuals with autism self-soothe, reduce sensory overload, and promote emotional regulation.
  • Spinning – Some individuals may engage in spinning motions, such as twirling in circles, which can provide a sense of stimulation and help them cope with sensory input.
  • Jumping or bouncing – Jumping or bouncing movements can provide sensory input and help individuals with autism release excess energy or anxiety.

Localized Stimming Behaviors

Localized stimming behaviors focus on specific body parts or involve repetitive actions in a limited area. These behaviors can serve as a way for individuals with autism to engage with their surroundings, communicate emotions, or find comfort.

Here are some examples of localized stimming behaviors:

It’s important to note that while stimming behaviors in autism can be observed as repetitive or unusual to some, they serve essential functions for individuals with autism. Stimming behaviors can help regulate emotions, decrease sensory overload, adapt to new environments, and communicate emotions, both positive and negative.

The Purpose of Stimming

Stimming plays an important role in the lives of individuals with autism. It serves various purposes, including self-soothing functions and emotional expression. Understanding the purpose behind stimming can help caregivers and individuals with autism develop strategies to support their sensory needs.

Self-Soothing Functions

For individuals with autism, stimming can serve as a tool for emotional self-regulation. Many autistic individuals experience sensory processing challenges, leading to over-responses or under-responses to stimuli such as sounds, light, textures, and smells. Stimming behaviors help them cope with these challenges and regulate their emotions.

Stimming can help decrease sensory overload by providing a repetitive and predictable sensory experience. It allows individuals to create a soothing and comforting environment, helping them to regain a sense of control and calmness. 

By engaging in self-stimulatory behaviors, individuals with autism can alleviate anxiety and manage overwhelming situations more effectively.

Emotional Expression through Stimming

Stimming behaviors in autism are not solely limited to self-soothing functions. They also serve as a means of expressing emotions. Stimming can be triggered by both positive and negative emotions or overwhelming situations.

Positive emotions such as happiness, excitement, or anticipation can lead to stimming behaviors. These behaviors may manifest as hand flapping, jumping, or rocking, allowing individuals to express their joy and engagement with their surroundings.

On the other hand, stimming can also be a response to negative emotions or overwhelming situations. It can be a way to communicate stronger emotions such as frustration, anger, or sadness. By engaging in stimming behaviors, individuals with autism can release tension and express their emotions in a non-verbal manner.

Overall, stimming serves as a valuable tool for individuals with autism to manage their emotions, adapt to new environments, communicate their feelings, and find comfort in challenging situations. It is important to recognize that stimming can have different purposes for different individuals, and it should be understood and supported as a natural part of their neurodiversity.

Scroll to Top