Stimming is a term for self-stimulatory behavior. It often manifests as repetitive body movement and is common among people on the autism spectrum and those with developmental disabilities or challenges. Stimming can bring enjoyment and help cope with uncomfortable or stressful situations that include nail-biting, tapping, or repetitive movement of objects or can include the use of all the senses.
Stimming actions can vary in intensity and type and can occur due to various emotions. Autistic people of any age may stim occasionally or constantly in response to excitement, happiness, boredom, stress, fear, and anxiety They may also stim during times when they are feeling overwhelmed. Types of stimming include: Auditory stimming, Tactile stimming, Visual stimming, Vestibular stimming and Olfactory/Taste stimming.
Stimming may provide familiar and reliable self-generated feedback in response to difficulties with unpredictable, overwhelming, and novel circumstances(e.g. Lawson, Rees, & Friston, 2014; Pellicano & Burr, 2012). As such, stimming may provide not only relief from excessive sensory stimulation, but also emotional excitation such as anxiety (Leekam, Prior, & Uljarevic, 2011). Consistent with these suggestions, autistic adults report that stimming provides a soothing rhythm that helps them cope with distorted or over-stimulating perception and resultant distress (Davidson, 2010) and can help manage uncertainty and anxiety (e.g. Joyce, Honey, Leekam, Barrett, & Rodgers, 2017) among neurodiverse children.