Stimming - Tyler's Experience
Stimming can be a source of comfort and enjoyment for many people, offering a way to regulate emotions and process sensory information.
Tyler is a train enthusiast who relies on specific stimming behaviours, such as fiddling with paper straws and spinning around in circles, for comfort and joy.
He describes stimming as a ‘somewhat involuntary action’ which keeps him occupied. He doesn’t give it too much thought – it’s almost an automatic response which focuses his attention to just one thing.
He said: “It helps with brain stimulation. I guess that’s why they are called stims, short for stimulation.”
Paper straws are a big part of Tyler’s life and a useful support tool for day-to-day activities.
“I have really big boxes and bags full of them. Basically, every place I frequently go to, they help me visualise the things I see in my brain.”
However, there have been instances where his usage of straws has been limited – and almost completely banned.
What many people don’t realise is that stimming can be a positive outlet for some individuals. It can bring a sense of relief, and ease anxiety in stressful situations. Forcing people to supress their stims can be harmful and unnecessary. Instead, they should be supported to express themselves.
Unlike hand flapping and rocking back and forth, spinning is a less common form of stimming. Tyler enjoys the sensation from spinning around because it triggers positive emotions, and he encourages others to try it out themselves.
He added: “I’ve met people who also like trains, I’ve met people with my name, I’ve met other people with autism…But spinning is definitely one of the things unique to me.”
“Most people are actually really fascinated by it. They just find it incredible to know that one of my pastimes, one of my stims, one of my things that I like to do is spinning around really fast.”
In many cases, stimming can reap many benefits for both neurodiverse and neurotypical groups, and act as a coping mechanism in challenging environments. Instead of trying to reduce the repetitive behaviours, the focus should be on supporting autistic people to feel comfortable in their environments.
“Autism is more than you think, and if you don’t think that, I will come to your house and give you a stern talking to because we need to really curtail that behaviour.”