Reason for hand-flapping and such in children with autism

Hand flapping is a widely known image of autism, but it may not be as frequent and common as people think.. Hand flapping is a stim, or self-stimulation behavior. Autism is a very widely differing condition of being with greatly varying stims. Many people with autism don't stim, just as many people do.

Most of us have some form of stimming or another, autistic or not. Do you bounce your crossed leg when you're nervous? Wring your hands? Play with your hair? What about popping your knuckles? Self-stimulation is very, very common. Sometimes it can be more apparent in people with autism or may occur in a less generally publicly-acceptable or common way, such as hand-flapping.

The reason for stims in general is usually a form of comfort. (By the way, I am CRAZY self-conscious writing this.... noticing every little constant leg wiggle, the fact my toes are curled right now, lol.)

Autism often comes with sensory issues. Lights are too bright, sounds too loud, touches too... touchy. And it becomes crazy levels of overwhelming, the inability to get away from it or overcome the feeling and it's just maddening. Like wearing a thick, super itchy wool turtleneck on a hot humid day in the summer and not being able to take it off. Maddening, uncomfortable, hard to breathe.... not fun.

Now, I'm sure you've heard of autistic meltdowns, when things like overstimulation whether that be sensory or emotionally really do practically short-circuit the brain... Stimming is a way to avoid that and can be a precursor to a meltdown if the situation isn't rectified or a hefty enough sense of calm and control gained.

Here are some common stims according to the Autism Research Institute:
Visual staring at lights, repetitive blinking, moving fingers in front of the eyes, hand-flapping
Auditory tapping ears, snapping fingers, making vocal sounds
Tactile rubbing the skin with one's hands or with another object, scratching
Vestibular rocking front to back, rocking side-to-side
Taste placing body parts or objects in one's mouth, licking objects
Smell smelling objects, sniffing people

Keep in mind, not everybody with autism is out of control of this behavior, in the same way you can stop popping your fingers or wringing your hands. However, it can be very helpful and the conscious strain can be irritating, It's like not even scratching when wearing the wool sweater in the sun. Sometimes you just need to scratch and screw what anyone thinks. It's itchy! Same way for other forms of sensory overload. And something that overloads you may not touch someone with autism and vice versa.

Do you know other common reasons for hand flapping in children with autism?

If you or your child is autistic, do you /they have any stims?

And even if you aren't autistic... what are your stims/ nervous habits??

03
Moms Expertise
    06/21/14
    Great information!
    Nina's only one and I've never worried about her being autistic, her doctors have always said she's just fine. Plus, she's one. Babies get into all sorts of things and behaviors. They're trying to take in a whole world of information.

    As for my ticks/stims?
    My main one drives my husband nuts, and it's kinda funny to me that it bothers him but I can't help it. I do it when I'm nervous, tired, excited, worried...I just run/rub the edge of my fingernail over cloth (like my shirt, pants, coat, blanket), to where to cloth is just under the nail. My nails aren't long, but they do go out just a teensy bit from my fingertips. I do it to books, too...and now, thinking about it, I was doing it to my keyboard. I don't know why. I always have.
    I don't know if these count but even if I'm just sitting at my desk gaming or reading, my left foot likes to press against my right one, over and over and over. It reminds me of my stepdad. He'd be sitting somewhere, talking, reading, doin whatever, and his legs just...he like, bounces it up and down without the front of his foot leaving the floor, really really fast. I only do that when Im really nervous or at the doctor's lol.
    0
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