Thursday, February 13, 2014

Understanding Stims and Eye Contact

Philip has told me numerous times that one of his missions is to help people understand autism.  It makes it easier for him and others like him to integrate into society when people understand why they do the things they do.  Stims, or repetitive body movements such as hand-flapping, tapping objects, twirling strings, or pacing, are a source of a lot of misunderstanding by neurotypical people.  I remember thinking they were purposeless actions and sought to extinguish these when Philip was younger.  I am learning now from Philip that they do serve a big purpose.  Philip has a love –hate relationship with stims.  He needs them to relax and enjoys them, but at the same time realizes it isolates him from others.  I think as we get to understand the different functions stims serve autistic people, we will act more compassionately and be able to overlook the differences in outward appearance so we could see the true person.

A conversation with Philip (Philip’s words are in bold):

Tell me about stims.

Stimming is each time I deal with stress.  I am respecting my body’s needs to mend itself from tension, hurt, and stress.

What is this tension, hurt, and stress caused by?

They are caused by nearly every understood thing.  Some aches each awaken a stim.  They are pains like a stomach ache or needed mind artist.

What is a mind artist?

Someone who understands our struggle.  It hurts when people don’t understand.

Is stimming ever not fun?

Y (yes).  When it gets in the way of searching out real solutions to problems.

When someone stops you from stimming, how do you feel?

I feel tested and torn apart.

Are there times when you should be stopped?

When I am not happy.

How should we stop you?

Please be tactful and kind to me. 

What should we do when you bang your head?
I am needing rest and comfort. 

Lia asked Philip last Saturday, “Why do you not look at the person talking to you?”

Because I am shy and feel nervous.  I get tongue-tied and need to concentrate without looking at the person.

*Philip's addendum:  I like to kid around too much.  Stims are fun and I like them.  
I take this to mean that stims can be a lot like our own habits sometimes.  We do them for different reasons.  Sometimes it is purely because we enjoy them.  Other times for stress relief.  Still others times we may take something we like to the extreme where it can be unhealthy.  

 Philip at age 3

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