Autism & Stimming / Jumping

Stimming: jumping up and down

Self-stimulatory behaviour – more commonly referred to as “stimming” is a behaviour that is very common in children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  Stimming is a repetitive or unusual movement or noise that the child makes.

When closely observing an autistic child you may come to notice that stimming seems to help the child manage big emotions.  In some cases it will also help the child cope with anxiety.  Funny thing is that most people actually stim.  In the normal developing person or child the stim may however not be as repetitive or even as noticeable as it would be in the child on the spectrum.

Whist the majority of stimming behaviours are totally harmless and won’t hinder the child in any way.  Other stims may be disruptive and they may interfere with the child’s overall quality of life.

Let us take a closer look at what we mean when we say harmless stimming:

  • A child may flick their fingers or flap their hands.
  • The child may rock their body back and forth. This can happen when the child is sitting or when they are standing.
  • Constant humming can be heard in some cases.
  • Children that look at things side-ways – visual stimulation
  • Opening or closing doors (also fall under repetitive behaviours).
  • Mouthing objects – which can be anything from toys to clothes or their hands.
  • Sucking on their arms or hands.
  • Chewing clothes or toys or pretty much anything they can get their hands on.
  • Listening to the same song over-and-over again.
  • Stimming by jumping up and down.

Sure enough some of the stims listed above may not be nice for the parent to witness and some may even be expensive (for example clothes chewing).  In public places these stims may intensify and we know that people stare but honestly these stims are truly harmless and they will in most cases not affect the child’s quality of life.

Stimming can however in some cases be self-injurious for example hand-biting.  This type of stim needs to be addressed.  Little boys that squeeze down on their private areas is another stim that needs to be addressed not just because it is not good for the child but also because of the implications it would have later in life – particularly from a social integration perspective.

Every child on the spectrum is different and the way a child stims is also as unique as the child themselves.  The import question to ask here is:  “does the child’s stim restrict the child’s opportunities, cause distress or discomfort, or impact on learning?” because if it does then we recommend you seek the help of an autism professional, autism specialist or autism therapist that can help.

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.