Talk about "stimming" to most folks and you'll get the blankest of blank stares. When I first heard it I thought it was something vaguely, well, naughty. The definition doesn't help dispel that assumption either. Stimming is any self-stimulating or self-soothing behaviour. (It turns out it doesn't actually mean having a turn with oneself.)
It can be anything from dangling your shoe on your toes or twirling your hair, to flapping your hands, chewing clothing, biting nails, bouncing up and down...just about anything really can become a repetitive behaviour that a person finds calming. I'm a chronic hair-twirler and always have been. Even now I have short short hair, I still find the longest piece and try to twirl it. I also used to scratch at the skin on my arms when anxious and I have a mass of white scars there now. F-Man chews his shirts, any cords on his sun hats, his drink bottle. He throws himself against walls or furniture. Bangs his head on the couch, or harder things sometimes. He shouts random stuff. He babbles. At the moment, he waves his arms around and pretend fights and makes light saber noises. All day. Every day. That's such a joy. He has a certain way of speaking (almost out the side of his mouth, and babyish) that he enjoys and when he is talking about things he is excited about he will use that voice constantly. His life at the moment seems to be one long bout of stimming.
The advice given to parents and teachers is to never force kids to stop their stim because it gives them comfort, enables them to concentrate or relax, or self-soothe. They will end up replacing it with another one that may well be worse, or they may develop anxiety. Though I guess if your kids stim is smearing poo everywhere, you'll take whatever the replacement is. Forcing them to stop would be like having an itch that you were never ever allowed to scratch.
I've read plenty from parents who discuss how they redirect their child when the stimming is getting too much, by giving them some form of distraction or a different sensory input. A bath, sand play, something off the exercise sheet from the OT, bouncing on the trampoline, maybe a cuddle and a movie. There are LOTS of parents who write about this. They never write about how much it drives them absolutely insane and they want to kill their kid if they do it one more bloody time.
Well I'm not like those parents. I'm going to admit that I have no freakin' idea how to distract and redirect my kid and yes, how I just want him to shut the fuck up for one goddamn hour.
Stimming is usually a reaction to a trigger. It might be a bright noisy environment such as a shopping centre. It could be a certain smell or noise level. It could be lack of routine during the school holidays. To control the amount of stimming, we need to know the trigger. But how do we find the trigger when there seems to be no pattern to it at all? I'm clearly supposed to know what it is because I should know my son well enough after 7 years to have something resembling a clue. But I don't.
The stimming has got wayyy out of control over the last few weeks. Every single minute of every waking hour is the Stim of the Moment; fighting noises from Star Wars, recreating battles from Star Wars in Star Wars Lego, or talking about battles in Star Wars. He wont be distracted from it. He has Aspergers ffs; you think he can be dragged from his latest obsession? Hell-to-the-No. If we try a different activity, he will somehow find a way to incorporate fighting actions and noises into it.
I'm at the point where I think there is no other choice but to force him to stop, naturally making me the Bad Parent who is traumatising her child. I seriously have no ideas at all how to get this to settle down. I dont know how to get him to replace the stim with something a little more socially acceptable than acting out death and destruction, or how to find the trigger that makes him stim every waking moment.
It was easier before we had his diagnosis. Then I just yelled at him and he would stop for a while. (By "a while" I mean an hour. And by "yelling" I mean I occasionally may have used the F-word and blasphemed.) Of course, now I can't do that because it's not like he is deliberately doing it to be a little shit. At least I don't think he is. Fuck. What if he is??
May as well call Child Protection. Maybe they have some idea what to do.