What is Stimming ADHD? What is its Effect on the Human Body?

Stimming ADHD

The word ‘stimming’ is an abbreviation for ‘self-stimulating behavior’ which is typically socially acceptable and normal behavior. What is stimming ADHD?  The answer is that it’s a form of self-stimulation used when one is bored or experiencing something uncomfortable.

Children living with ADHD face unique challenges. Stimming is simply a way to help them to focus, reduce anxiety, or release excess energy.

Some of the things a person does that can be considered ‘stimming’ include:

  • Chewing the inside of their cheek
  • Excessive or unnecessary sniffling
  • Twirling your hair
  • Biting your nails
  • Humming
  • Tapping a writing utensil such as a pen, or pencil

From these examples, you can see that stimming is a very common behavior. These behaviors can be observed in people of all backgrounds, disabilities, and ages. Stimming is a natural response that is not unique to intellectually or developmentally disabled individuals.

Difference Between ASD Stimming and ADHD Stimming

Stimming for those on the autism spectrum disorder is different than ADHD Stimming in severity and duration. ADHD self-stimming behaviors occur when sensory overload happens while trying to concentrate. An example is someone with ADHD thinking about writing, as they rock back and forth, or twirl their hair.

ADHD Stimming or in Developmentally Delays

ADHD stimming can function as a source of comfort and control for those with developmental disorders. Most children or adults with developmental disabilities often experience sensory overload. Stimming is a means of regaining control over a certain sensation or experience.

Children who are easily overwhelmed by too much auditory input might easily begin shouting or shrieking in response. A child overwhelmed with visual input may begin pressing their hands against eyelids, or move their eyes back and forth quickly. These actions are known as adaptive mechanisms.

These adaptive mechanisms, or stimming help the disabled to communicate their emotions. For this reason, stimming can be loud, different, and distracting from the ‘normal’ sources of self-stimulation. These types of stimming are most likely the reason people associate stimming with those who are developmentally delayed.

ADHD Stimming

Developmental disabilities are not always accompanied with ADHD. What is more common is for children with ADHD to experience sensory difficulties. For this reason, ADHD stimming is much like what you would see in a child on the autism spectrum, rather than what would be observed in their typical peers.

ADHD stimming typically involves fidgeting. Stimming for these children can range from squirming in their chair to humming loudly, and even speaking over others and more. These behaviors are used for the child to find some form of sensory input.

Stimming helps a child with ADHD quiet down their sensory systems and the unpleasant sensations in their body. Depending on the child and the environment, stimming will create a new sensation that is pleasant to experience. The reasons for seeking sensation are unique to each and can change daily.

Autism is characterized by high levels of anxiety and stress. As such, many autistic people have an aversion to bright lights, especially if they are flashing or strobe light patterns. In fact, some autistic people may be so sensitive to these types of stimuli that they cannot even tolerate them. This can be a challenge in the classroom setting for students on the spectrum.  However, there are ways for educators to provide solutions for coping with this type of hypersensitivity.

How ADHD Stimming Helps

There are multiple reasons an individual uses stimming. For some, they want to gain control over a situation, others are trying to redirect unpleasant energy or fear. When used for these reasons, sensory overload is typically involved. Stimming is a form of control and can appear in a dramatic movement.

Dramatic stimming can include rocking, crying, or jumping. These actions are able to help quiet an overloaded sensory system. Stimming can relieve excess energy, so tapping feet, pacing, and fidgeting can also quiet overloaded sensory systems. The core of ADHD is hyperactivity, so these actions are not abnormal, but more matter of course.

For some, stimming is used as a means to alleviate boredom. This is perhaps the most common reason for those without a disorder. These small expenditures of energy engage a body in several ways without taking a lot of effort or thought.

When to Intervene on ADHD Stimming

For the most part, stimming does not require intervention. If the action is not interfering with one’s daily life, you do not need to stop the action. When stimming begins to interfere with one living a well-adjusted, healthy life, then educators, parents, or therapists need to intervene.

Intervention is often needed when a child is on the ADS, and in some cases, children who have ADHD. If a child stares off into space and does not acknowledge their educator, it interferes with their academic achievement. If a child hums or speaks over others, this will also require intervention.

Intervention can include applied behavioral analysis, as these behaviors negatively impact a child’s social skills and social behaviors. Children with ADHD and sensory issues are likely to have larger stimming behaviors. These students will probably have an IEP, or 504 plan to improve their learning abilities.

ADHD stimming at home is unlikely to need the same level of intervention as when in school. You may still want to apply some support or an intervention such as ADHD therapy. Children with ADHD often have trouble sitting at the table and could develop unhealthy relationships with eating and food.

Other stimming events that can occur in the home include difficulty completing chores or listening to your directions, which can lead to rifts in relationships. There are some cases where stimming can lead to self-injury which will need intervention.

In Conclusion

Some people feel that discouraging a child not to stim is like forcing someone to give up something they love, that it is cruel. For others, stimming functions are a source of alienation from peers and must be addressed and resolved.  Determining if stimming is damaging or not depends on your child’s goals. You will have to seek the treatment you feel necessary for them to succeed.

Learn what to do if you are a parent struggling with ADHD symptoms.

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