This innocuous phrase has turned obnoxious for me. Here’s an example of why: I’m reading a book about teaching social skills to children with Asperger’s and I come across a sentence stating that children should be allowed to time to engage in stress-reducing activities, including “self-stimulation in socially appropriate forms.”
What sort of stimming is socially appropriate, you may wonder? The book doesn’t say. Presumably everyone knows? Later in the book I find a clue. There is a list of sample relaxation activities that children can try as a way to de-escalate their stress. One of the activities is “rocking in private.”
Does that mean rocking is socially inappropriate? I assume so, since it’s meant to be done in secret only. How about flapping? Bouncing? Spinning? Playing with a stim toy? Rubbing a surface? Staring at a moving object?
Where does the line between socially appropriate and socially inappropriate lie? Who decides?
Actually, the idea of an adult thinking a child is complying with the rule that they are only “allowed” to stim in private is kind of funny.
Is the child chewing on something, manipulating something with their hands or fingers, touching something, kicking their feet, clicking their tongue, chewing their lip, rubbing their blankie, petting their favorite stuffed toy, sniffing their food, fisting their hands in their pockets, twirling their hair, watching the ceiling fan? All forms of stimming.
Oh, you mean stimming.
Stimming - v - repetitive activity that makes an autistic person look like a freak
When I read some of the ways nonautistic people talk about stimming, I swear this is the definition they have in their heads.
Oh, wait, I know: socially inappropriate stims are ones that draw attention to us. If you rock in public, people will stare.
And whose problem is that?
Try out these sentences instead:
If you sign in public, people will stare.
If you use your wheelchair in public, people will stare.
If you limp in public, people will stare.
If you use your assistance dog in public, people will stare.
And if people do stare, other people will think they’re rude. Who would tell a Deaf person not to sign in public or a paraplegic not to use their wheelchair in public?
But people tell autistic kids not to stim in public all the time. Again and again I see conversations and articles insisting that stimming–or if they’re trying to be politically correct, certain types of stimming— isn’t appropriate public behavior.
Really? And why is that? Who exactly does stimming embarrass? Not the autistic person who’s doing it.
Stimming happens. It’s not something autistic people choose to do.
Controlling it is like playing whack-a-mole. Stop it over here and it’s just going to pop back up over there. Whack it enough times and it’s going to go underground and rip up your entire yard.
Thank you to Francijn, who translated this post into Dutch.