Friday, December 28, 2007

"Stimming" vs. Sanity

Parenting children with disabilities is a lot of work [as Homer would day, d’oh!]. When Sayer was younger, I always felt a bit “robbed” of down time. Neurotypically developing kids ( aka regular ‘ole kids) were usually granted down time to watch television, play video games or whatever, but because Sayer has autism, Dan and I were cautioned against letting Sayer be in his own world> We were advised by educators and therapist not to let Sayer engage in behaviors that are repetitive but soothing - meaning to “just stim.” So instead, we we vigilant and made sure he was nearly always “engaged.” Talk about searching for balance – I would have just settled for time to read one section of the paper with a cup of coffee.

As Sayer got older, we found that the week-end mornings were the toughest part of the week – Sayer was so well-scheduled at school he couldn't’just eat breakfast and hang. He did better when he had a
visual schedule laid out for him in the morning that outlined his activities for the day. One more job for Mom. I know I’m not the only “autism mom” that wishes their kid would watch an hour or two of Saturday morning cartoons.

Today, wiser woman that I am, I realize that we can’t be super parents who are “on” all the time. When "regular ole' kids" play Wii for hours on end, ins't that a type of stimming? It is repetitive and pleasurable, but is that so bad? Nowadays, we try to strike a balance between letting Sayer indulge his favorite activities even when they are a tad “stimmy” versus pushing him to try new activities.

For example, Sayer LOVES Wallace and Gromit, particularly the movie “Curse of the Were-Rabbit” [ 85-minutes plus previews, yeah!]. We let him watch it about every other day, sometimes with one of us in the room and sometimes on his own. So far, he hasn't shown any ill effects, except that he likes to repeat one – and only one - phrase from the movie. Unfortunately, that phrase is “shoot the dog.” We are working on getting Sayer to day “Cheese, Gromit, Cheese” or “I do like a bit of Gorgonzola” instead.


Sylvie said...

What happens when an autistic parent of an autistic child (which surely happens) is strung along with all these prescriptions and suggestions of what one should do, or shouldn't do? Do these parents submit as willingly to the disciplines suggested by therapists as do neurotypicals? I would imagine that the need to be left alone to do one's own thing would be more intensively felt by an adult on the spectrum; maybe they'd be more immune to the social pressures to feel guilty for not doing everything that one possibly can, 24/7?

Carol Solow Freedman said...


Great question! It is my understanding that some adults on the autism spectrum who have children with autism are less "compliant" than other parents. Some remember receiving ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapy as children, which at that time frequently relied on adversive tactics. Many adults recall this therapy as abusive, and are hesitant or refuse to allow their own children to receive ABA therapy, although today adversive tactics are rarely used. In refusing this therapy, they are no doubt defying suggestions from therapists and "experts."

Adults with autism also defend "stimming" as behaviors that help them and their children better cope with the neurotypical world.

For an interesting take on autism from the view of adults on the spectrum, take a look at the Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical ( Please note that this web site is a parody.