Parents with autistic children are well aware of stimming behaviors. Stimming is a self-stimulatory behavior shown by actions such as hand-flapping or repetitive vocalizations, often meant to self-regulate and offer sensory stimulation to an autistic child.
Many parents accept this behavior, thinking that there is no way around it. It does not negate the fact that stimming can make everyday life more challenging for parents and caretakers. They can also pose a threat to the social skills of a child with autism.
Every parent wants to learn ways to reduce this behavior to ensure the best for their child and mental peace for themselves. You can read the following ways to reduce and control stimming behaviors in your child.
1. Approach with Empathy
Dealing with stimming, especially for the first few times, can be a challenge. It is hard for a normal functioning person, a child with autism, to opt for this approach. It may seem like an unnecessary reaction to you, but it can serve several purposes for an autistic child.
Stimming helps an autistic child self-regulate and express their emotions better. It acts as a form of sensory stimulation that can help them feel comfortable. This comfort should not be taken away from any child.
While you look for ways to reduce stimming in your child, remember that the requisite to address their emotion remains. Instead of trying to eliminate a behavior from the grassroots, look for alternative ways to introduce it to your child.
You can provide your child with several different options, such as playing with a fidget toy, squeezing a stress ball, or any other motor activity that helps them deal with the overwhelming feelings. It may take some time for them to switch to the alternative, but all your hard work will be worth it once they do.
In addition to introducing alternatives, you can also try to reduce the actions and objects that trigger stimming. Look for what triggers your child and try to take control of these issues as much as you can. A combination of control and alternatives can help your child develop healthy coping mechanisms.
2. Learn About Stimming
One thing that parents of an autistic child understand better than any other parent is that you cannot help your child without educating yourself. As you have learned about autism and how it affects your child, you must take some time to learn about stimming.
Learning What stimming is, why it happens, and how it affects your child can help you gain valuable insights into why it happens. From hand flapping to rocking and flipping, every behavior can help you recognize when your child needs you.
In addition to learning different types of stimming, educating yourself on the subject can also help you differentiate stemming from several other self-regulatory behaviors displayed by your child. This way, you will be able to get closer to your child and understand their needs.
3. Provide Alternatives
Once you understand why your child engages in stimming, you can understand that it is not in their control. You cannot eradicate stimming behaviors from their life completely, even if you remove all possible triggers from their life. After all, every individual has a life outside the four walls of their home.
Instead of trying to get rid of this behavior, finding alternatives can yield even more beneficial results for you and your child. For example, if a child engaging in hand-flapping can be offered sensory toys for sensory relief.
In addition, you can also try speech therapy to communicate with your child during stimming episodes. Try and make a habit for your child to be vocal through their stimming episodes. For example, they can learn to say “too noisy” or “too bright” to tell you about their triggers. Over time, they will learn to use words instead of stimming.
In case the sensory tools are unavailable, teaching can also be very helpful. The alternatives can help your child cope with sensory overload in different environments without gaining unnecessary attention.
4. Entertain Breaks
Teaching your autistic child how to ask for a break is a necessary way to help them avoid sensory overload. Even if your child has verbal limitations, it is important to arrange a way for them to ask for a break through tangible objects.
Similarly, children with autism also need sensory breaks. These breaks are designed to provide a structured opportunity for children to engage in activities that fulfill their sensory needs for self-regulation and sensory relief.
You cannot always take control of your child’s stimming behaviors. It is important to give them a sensory break by creating a designated space where they can do whatever they want. You must make arrangements for them to find sensory relief through sensory toys or other sensory tools, such as weighted blankets.
This safe space can help them stimulate themselves when they feel the need for sensory input. Sensory breaks are a proactive way to reduce the likelihood of stimming behaviors. Over time, these breaks can reduce the frequency and intensity of stimming.
5. Promote Self Regulation
Self-regulation for autistic children begins with helping them understand and manage their behavior. It can be a challenging step while working with autistic children, but teaching them can help them take control of their stimming behavior.
Self-regulation enables children to manage their emotions, sensory experiences, and behaviors constructively. The easiest way to promote these healthy habits in your child is by teaching them breathing techniques to cater to an overload.
When facing an Overload, tell your child to take slow, deep breaths. Practice deep breathing exercises with your child and tell them to imitate what you do. Breathing exercises can become a healthier alternative for self-regulation instead of stimming.
You may also want to look into muscle relaxation techniques. A series of muscle tensing and relaxing can help them release tension or anxiety. This way, they can learn more about relaxation and self-control. Over time, you can reduce their stimming behaviors effectively.