September 27, 2007 by Marj Hatzell
Bugaboo, like other autistics and children with developmental delays, loves to stim. Stimming (not an official definition, mind you) is usually a side-effect of being over-stimulated by their environments but being under-stimulated by their own brain and requiring more information. Therefore, the stimmer (if you will) will perform repetitive behaviors, almost looped continuously until something or someone interferes. Bugaboo has stimmed in some seemingly bizarre ways in the past and it is usually one of the only things that makes him stand out from children his own size at the playground. He can run, jump and swing with the best of them but he is typically the only child picking up handfuls of wood mulch, holding his arms straight out in front of his face and shaking the wood chips out of his hands in an inward, circular motion (think: WAX ON, WAX OFF!). He performs this same stim with water, with rice from his rice bucket, with grass that he picks from the lawn, with leaves that fall from the tree and with the gravel from the driveway in the backyard. He gets the most serene look on his face when he does it. It’s almost as if his brain is saying, “OH THANK HEAVENS! STIMMING! I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU!” Stimming is fine in small doses but the goal (usually) is to replace the stimming, slowly, with more age-appropriate activities. It is fairly harmless except that sometimes they stand out a little in a crowd (which doesn’t bother me any). Occasionally the stimming can take place of so-called desirable behaviors (like communicating) and that is usually a good time to find a replacement behavior, if possible. A few examples:
Stimming on the carpet with his fingers to feel the texture and trace the pattern? Fine.
Stimming with ceramic elephants in that same WAX ON, WAX OFF manor? Not fine( A few broken tusks and legs later)
Turning on the bathroom sink and stimming in the water from the faucet, making a small puddle on the floor? Harmless.
Turning on the bathtub, pulling the drain up so the tub fills and leaving the bathroom to leave it running while your mother sits oblivious DIRECTLY UNDER THE TUB and the tub begins to overflow and finally you saunter back into the room soaking wet and freezing cold (fully clothed) because you’ve been stimming in said tub for twenty minutes when suddenly the ceiling next to the light fixture begins to drip? Not-so-harmless.
Shaking soft things like plastic cups, stuffed animals and paper in front of your face? Safe!
Shaking chopsticks, German-Steel-Knives and pointy FORKS! in front of your face (that you steal and then hide behind the couch with because you KNOW Momma ain’t gonna be happy), or more accurately, your eyes? NOT SO SAFE!
I am not against stimming. Stimming? GOOD! Putting things in outlet plugs? BAAAAD!!! See the difference? Let’s hope Bugaboo can. Otherwise, we may break out record this year. We’ve only been to the ER three times with the boys (as opposed to six times last year) so maybe we are due. I didn’t just type that. Honest. Just ignore it.