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Stimming is a jargon term for a stereotypy, a repetitive body movement that self-stimulates one or more senses in a regulated manner. It is one of the symptoms listed by the DSM IV for autism, although it is observed in many normally-developing children. Common forms of stimming among people with autism include hand flapping, body spinning or rocking, lining up or spinning toys or other objects, echolalia, perseveration, and repeating rote phrases.
Many theories exist as to what function stimming has, and the reasons for its increased incidence in autistic people. For hyposensitive people, it may provide needed nervous system arousal, releasing beta-endorphins. For hypersensitive people, it may provide a "norming" effect, allowing the person to control a specific part of their sensorium, and is thus a soothing behavior.
Sometimes self-injury is viewed as a form of stimming.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Usually, self-injury is very different from stimming, but people with decreased pain sensitivity may injure themselves because they like the feel of it, similar to other stims.[How to reference and link to summary or text] For example, they might like the way their hand feels in the mouth when they bite themselves, while not feeling the pain of the bite. Or they might like pressure on their forehead and bang their head without it hurting, even if they are risking brain damage.
- Crosland, K.A., et al. Prevalence of stereotypy among children diagnosed with autism at a tertiary referral clinic. (pdf) Presented at the Association for Behavioral Analysis annual conference. URL accessed on 2006-07-01.
- Edelson, Stephen M. Stereotypic (Self-Stimulatory) Behavior (Stimming). URL accessed on 2006-07-01.
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