Tag Archives | stimming

Your hands tell me when you’re happy

Christmas was one week away, the excitement building as we prepared presents for friends and family. We laughed as we changed the words to our favorite Christmas songs, drank Egg Nog and opened the next door to find out what shape the next chocolate was in our advent calendars.

happy handsAs we talk about Santa and what each of us is hoping for, I lean over to my son Cameron and say “Do you know how I always know when you’re happy?”

He said “No, how?”

I replied “Your hands tell me.”

He smiled and said “because I flap my hands!”

At that point, he began bouncing on his toes and flapping his hands so hard that I thought he might fly.

Beside us, sitting up against my hip, was my dog Spirit. She is Cameron’s best friend and, I think, Cameron is her best friend too.

I said to Cameron “Cameron, do you know how I always know when Spirit is happy?”

He said “No.”

I told him “Because her tail tells me.”

Again, the excitement building as he flapped his hands really hard, “She wags her tail!!”

I explained to him that Spirit doesn’t have hands so she wags her tail but I imagine that it’s very much the same feeling. There’s just so much happiness inside that it has to come out.

I told him that I know some people might bug him about it, some people might say silly things or tell him that he shouldn’t… but I’ll never stop him from showing me how happy he is.

He got up and gave me a big hug.

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The most important Autism social network

The dinner table.

What? You were expecting some enlightening links to sites that you finally talk to people that would finally have all the answers you were looking for?

Now, don’t get me wrong.. the advice, support and stories that I do find among the internet’s social networks have been invaluable. I’ve learned so much.

However, the absolute best place to learn, to be entertained and to get real world experience is right at my supper table.

How Dinner Used to Be

For the longest time, Cameron would be a passing visitor to the dinner table. He’d take a bit and then run off to play, or stim, or just be by himself… then he’d return for another bite and be gone again.

Many in our family questioned whether it was wise to allow that, or just generally asked why it was that way… for us, we were just happy that he would eat. If it meant taking a little extra time for him to play, so be it.

As he got a little older, his speech developed and so did his social skills. He was in school, his little brother was talking and wanting someone to play with… soon, Cameron started to enjoy being at the table dinner table.

Dinner Time is Family Time

These days, dinner usually consists of my wife and I telling Cameron to stop repeating the same stories over and over again, or the new song he learned or something of that nature and to just eat… it’s a good problem to have.

We’re often told stories about the new video game they have at school, or a new story they were told, or a new movie he saw, or something funny that one of the other children said… none of it really seems to involve actual involvement with the other kids, just what they did.

But you know what? It’ll come.

It took this long for him to actually sit down and speak to us. We can wait a little longer.

And even if it never comes, even if he never does tell us about all the things he actually does with friends…. that’s ok too.

I learn far more from listening to him than I do from any resources online. I am entertained by him far more than I am from any videos or stories I read online.

I’ll never take these dinners for granted.

One day they will fade away into memory, as my boys get older and want to be elsewhere… and that’s ok also.

That’s the great thing about social networks. They grow, they shrink, they’re always changing.

But they’re always supportive, educational, sharing and most of all, they’re always there for you.

Before you leave, let me share with you what happened during the last social gathering around the dinner table. Enjoy.


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This is how my son shows compassion in an Autistic way

When Cameron was 1, we took him to McDonalds because that’s just what parents do… children love that place, right? Well, it proved to be a complete fail. We didn’t even know he had Autism then but he knew it… he refused to eat anything they had and refused to join in with the other children in the Play Place. He enjoyed watching the other children play but didn’t really get in there.

We didn’t take him back for a long time after that… until his younger brother was old enough.

Fast forward a few years, Cameron is now 5 and his little brother (Tyler) is 3 and we felt it would be a good time to give it another try. Suffice to say, this time it went far better. We brought food for Cameron, Tyler will eat just about anything there. And they both played in the Play Place. They had a blast!

Yesterday we went again and while they played, I noticed a boy back inside the restaurant with his mom… his name is Jack. He was in Cameron’s class last year but not this year. He was also the one boy that Cameron identified with most last year.

Jack is almost double Cameron’s age, and quite a bright child but also what you would consider lower functioning. I was unsure whether or not they’d even allow it but I went back into the restaurant to say hi and mention that Cameron would love it if Jack would come play with him in the Play Place.

They got up and came in with us… Cameron was so very happy to see him. But they were so awkward looking… like they didn’t even know how to say hi to each other.

It was very obvious that the loud, echo filled, brightly coloured, children filled room was too much for Jack as he paced back and forth on his tip toes and flapping his arms… his mother was not concerned. I asked if he’s ok as he passed by, he said yes and kept going…

What impressed me most was that Cameron stopped going into the slides to play… he stayed with Jack. He didn’t talk to Jack, he didn’t pace… he just sort of hung around and waited.

When Jack felt ready, he approached Cameron and together they both when inside and popped out at the bottom of a slide together. Jack went straight back to stimming… Cameron went right back to waiting.

I was so very proud of my boy. He didn’t ask if he was ok, or try to console him, he didn’t even approach him… but he waited.

Again, Jack was ready and off they went and appeared down the slide once again. This time Jack had a great smile on his face as he went back to stimming.

Tyler went with them when they went but he didn’t stick around to wait. He was up and down those slides while Cameron waited.

Boys in a bubble

Boys in a bubble

All 3 of them ended up at the end of one of the tunnels at one point, together. I got a picture but all you can see is Jack’s red sweater.

As it came time to go, I left feeling very proud of Cameron. He was extremely shy about me approaching Jack, he was extremely shy about saying hi and he was extremely shy about talking to Jack when Jack was clearly needing to take some time to himself.

But he was patient and he was there for him. He didn’t leave Jack behind, he didn’t give up on him.

Cameron talked about Jack the rest of the day. He was just so very happy that Jack was there. Even though it meant only going back into the thing 3 times when he could have done so much more… he was just so happy to have a friend with him.

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Stimming: What Is It? Why Do Autistics Do It?

First, I’m not a doctor nor an expert, so if you want a detailed technical explanation, I suggest you talk to the doctors that diagnosed you or your children. However, if you would like my take on it and details as to what my son does and why, then please feel free to read on.

A recent discussion on Twitter about visual stimming really got a lot of people thinking and some people asked what it is. It’s a bit of a vague question for many reasons, for example, some people have witnessed it but don’t know why it happens, some people have never witnessed it and some people have witnessed it yet didn’t even realize that what they saw was actual stimming.

While there is no concrete definitive answer just like how there are no two people with Autism exactly the same, it can be broken down into a few distinct categories. And much like a newborn baby’s cries, it’s up to you to distinguish what each stimming event means.

In most cases, stimming comes as a form of meditation for the person, a way to narrow their focus down onto one thing so as to remove themselves from an overwhelming situation. In Cameron’s case, sometimes he has a friend come over to play and finds that every hour or so, he needs to remove himself to the kitchen where he’ll pass two toys back and forth in front of his face over and over and over again for a good 10 to 20 minutes. This eases his mind, allows him to wash away the anxiety and stress of being overwhelmed and then go back to join his friend and play some more.

Another example of this is in Temple Grandin’s movie where she invents a squeeze machine which holds her as tight as she wishes to be held and it calms her, focuses her and even prepares her for what she knows will be an overwhelming day.

Some people fear this stimming, they wish their child wouldn’t do it and so they try to make their child stop or they look for a cure. In these cases, I think the stimming is a cure (at least in the Autistic’s mind) to an overwhelming world. It’s their escape and so taking that away from them could be rather disastrous.

Some people believe that what a child with Autism might be seeing or tasting or hearing could be an after effect of the food they eat. Sounds strange but the premise of the GFCF diet is that the proteins affect the brain much like a powerful drug, which in turn makes it so that when they see an object pass before their eyes, it looks as if it’s leaving trails behind it. Or sounds echo more than before, or touching something can be almost painful. Most of us haven’t done heavy drugs like that but I’m sure we’ve all heard stories or seen enough movies to imagine what it could be like. If those gluten or casein proteins truly do react like that then it’s easy to see how and why an Autistic child would stand there waving their hands back and forth in front of their face for an hour.

In some cases stimming is sometimes not stimming at all! For some children, they may have visual impairments that no one but trained experts would recognize and the issues that it gives these children end up looking to us like stimming. If one eye is out of alignment, if the vision is clear but causes things to be jumbled, if the vision to brain link is not 100% causing the child to be unable to track a moving object without moving their head…. these things can result in a child doing repetitive motions over and over again trying to self correct a problem they don’t even realize they have and to us, and even most doctors, it would simply look like an Autism symptom. In these cases, a visit to the proper doctor that can recognize and treat these things could be all that’s required for a full recovery! Shocking, I know.

Take schizophrenia for example, where a child is imagining things as if they’re real, where they’re hearing voices talking to them as if they’re real… these children may do what the voices ask, they may refuse and end up hitting themselves trying to make the voices stop… again, results of what they don’t understand end up being diagnosed as Autism to us. If there is enough going on in the child’s mind, they may not even notice the real world… which may come across as ignoring, or violent, or again… stimming.

This brings us to the ‘violent’ stimming, which is often seen as children banging their head against the wall or hitting themselves in the head… but can sometimes be something more simple such as bouncing on their beds, hitting a toy over and over or even, as mentioned, a strong comforting hug from a blanket or device (almost never from a person). Most people think of it as a psychotic crazy thing, one of those things you only ever see in horror/thriller movies where the kid will eventually start ripping animals apart and family members go missing… but the truth of the matter is, this is just stimming.

There’s a lot of debate over this, whether it’s frustration of being locked in their own little world, or if it’s their need to simply feel something. It could even be that on their level of sensory input, it has the same effect as a visual stimmer having an object pass before their eyes repeatedly.

These are the more extreme cases that tend to come from internal factors such as Autism, sensory issues or other things like that but you have to realize that there doesn’t have to be something like that under the surface for stimming to occur. Have you ever chewed your pen or pencil? How about your nails? Ever tapped your fingers on a table or bounced your knee up and down? Ever rocked back and forth in a rocking chair? Yeah, you know where I’m going with this. These are all forms of stimming that you and I do every day and as you know, half the time, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

Cameron, luckily, is a visual stimmer mostly, in fact I have even an article written on his “thai chi” but he also does like the “banging” stimulation where he needs a heavy comforter to sleep, and likes to have his mattress on the floor… with him under it.

I think it’s really important that doctors figure out the differences and the causes. I don’t care if there are 1000 different causes, they need to be determined and a solution needs to be found where we, the parents, can differentiate between them.

Quite frankly, I’m happy that my child takes a 20 minute breather from social play to ease his mind. If that’s what it takes for him to be happy, have fun and have friends, then by all means, take your time! But if my child is hitting his little brother because it’s a voice in his head telling him to do it instead of just an Autistic need to fulfil a sensory input… I would kinda like to know!

The big deal about this is that doctors can only help us so much, and that’s usually after we, the parents, are able to break through the shell and figure things out ourselves. No one will ever know if a child hears voices unless we are able to get our child to respond to us and not just respond, but actually vocalize the issues.

And this is why stimming is still such a mystery. It comes in so many forms, most don’t even know they’re doing it and the reasons change with the seasons.

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