One of the most common things we worry about as parents of spectrum kids, besides getting them the hell out of our house someday, is whether they will be able to fit in with typical peers. While we may not ever try to make them stop flapping or spinning because we respect them deeply, we still have that nagging feeling deep down that others will notice their unusual behavior and use that as a reason to tease or devalue our children.
Most people are familiar with the stim of flapping. But I know that there are many other stims, as well as soothing/relaxing behaviors out there. I decided to ask several other parent bloggers I know to describe some of the stims/behaviors in their homes, and the purpose they serve.
“Chronically picking at the insides/cuticles of thumbs, peeling anything where the surface is coming off, like bark off of sticks or paint and wallpaper.” Kristin, Running to Be Still
“Unable to concentrate unless hands are clean/obsessive hand washing.” Jill “that nutjob with curly hair”, Yeah. Good Times
“Trichotillomania; preferences for numbers to add up to multiples of 12.” Adrienne, No Points for Style
“Twiddling fingers like they’re playing an invisible keyboard – it’s calming and feels like they’re shaking out stress.” Carmen, Stay at Home Crazy
“Typing words on the palm of the hand like it’s a keyboard; playing mental math games by assigning a number to each letter and trying to make a word add up to a multiple of 5.” Jessica, Don’t Mind the Mess
“Vocal stims/noises when falling asleep.” Amanda,Confessions from Household Six
“Twitching toes, both inside shoes and at bedtime to relax.”Jean, Stimeyland
“Chronic picking of scabs, cuticles, dry skin; scalp massages for the soothing effect; multiple blankets for weight.” Eileen, Autism With a Side of Fries
“Obsessed with using peppermint oil or Tiger Balm on the body as a sensory input; hot beverages when upset/anxious; pacing when stressed; removing and redoing ponytail when ready to meltdown.” Jo, Jo Ashline; A Sweet Dose of Truth
“Interlocking hands and moving fingers in a rapid pattern when excited or nervous. Will also reach arms up and put fingers in hair in an attempt to hide it.” Maya, Maya’s Eye Photography
“Doodling with pen and paper.” Jen, Anybody Want a Peanut
“Vacuuming – the hum, movement and lines are soothing.” Lizbeth, Four Sea Stars
“Tapping thumbs and fingers together. Karla, Beyond the Dryer Vent
“Rubs feet together when going to sleep; cuticle picking; wall of pillows when sleeping; heavy blankets.” Anonymous, My Winter Butterflies
“Prefers crisp fabric, like denim or khaki, and fingers the fabric repeatedly.” Patty, Pancakes Gone Awry
“Picking eyebrows and cuticles; chewing on hair or necklace; heavy blankets.” Stephanie, On the Beans
“Rubbing fingers together; pushing hair behind ears; obsessed with word games.” Marj, The Domestic Goddess
“Thumb-sucking; running fingers over eyelashes.” Anonymous
“Thumb-picking; pulling at eyebrows.” Tim, Both Hands and a Flashlight
“Rubbing feet together at bedtime; face-picking.” Lexi, Mostly True Stuff
“Constant humming or singing; picking at cuticles.” Anne, Glass Half Full
“Oral fixation – chewing on straws, pencil erasers, pencils, gum; picking cuticles.” Niksmom, Maternal Instincts
“Typing on the keyboard very loudly.” Gabrielle, My Whac-A-Mole Life
After reading that list, you must be thinking, “Wow, how will those kids ever be functional adults with all those odd, quirky stims and coping mechanisms?” And you’re right, there are some pretty unusual things there. But the good news is that they are already functional adults, because the behaviors that each person described are their behaviors. They are the quirks and routines of the parents, not the autistic child.
The people on this list are lawyers, accountants, healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, computer professionals, housewives and writers. They have families and jobs and therapy appointments and household responsibilities. They’re your friends and neighbors. In short, they’re YOU. See, we all have habits and odd, quirky ways that we cope with life’s stressors. Some developed in childhood, while others came later, when adult responsibilities took shape.
Our children are not so different from us. It’s just that they haven’t developed the ability to “hide” their quirks as well as we have. Flapping, spinning, repeating movie lines, jumping – none of those seems so “unique” to autism when you read the above list. It seems that we all find ways to interact with our environment and process the sensory input in our own “special” way.
The bottom line is this: stop CARING what other people think. Our kiddos will make their way, in THEIR way, and at the end of the day all that matters is that they’re healthy, happy, and loved. Anyone that would look oddly at our children is the same person that’s going home to drink too much, pick their scabs, or rock themselves to sleep.
We’re all pretty weird. Some of us know how to hide it, and others are more organic. It’s kind of refreshing, that honesty and purity. Celebrate it.