Autism and stimming: Should we let people with autism stim?
It depends but the short answer is “yes, if they’re not harming themselves or others”.
Stimming isn’t quirky and cute for everyone. Some autistics’ stims are very intense and can actually be harmful.
Stimming isn’t something most autistics can control — and it’s not something you even necessarily do consciously. I can’t control mine, though I wish I could. Charlie, on the other hand, like many people with autism, stims all day long and sometimes even hurts himself in the process.
A few months ago, he got a staph infection on his scalp. It was from the incessant hitting his face while stimming.
So is there anything wrong with stimming? Not inherently, unless:
– the autistic person is hurting themself
– the stimming is so incessant that they can’t do anything else and it impacts their quality of life (they can’t focus, learn, or engage)
– the stimming is highly disruptive/harmful to others
Charlie’s stims are intense, but I feel lucky because some autistics stim so intensely that they have to wear a helmet 24/7 to protect themselves. A common stim is banging one’s head.
So while some people with autism learn to control their stims and use them to self-regulate, this is far from the case for everyone on the spectrum.