So this is part of our day-to-day, random events like the one pictured here. There I was in the kitchen setting up one of the three of these wire shelves I’d gotten to help organize the counter. I heard a rustling in the box in the living room and decided I ought to check on the 38lbs mole living in my house. Sure enough, he’d opened the box back up, pulled out all the packing and was on the couch doing this:
It is common for people to associate autism with hand flapping and some wild physical movement. If you don’t live it every day why would you know that stimming, short for self stimulation, can come in many different ways? J’s main way to stim is to do so visually. This wire rack is an absolute goldmine of visual stimming for him. He’s been at it for 20 minutes now and I haven’t the heart to take the rack away. It will disappear after he goes to bed tonight only to return when it is employed in its proper place in the kitchen.
Now, imagine this on a larger scale. Shopping carts. Fences of nearly any material. Large wire display crates in stores… The list goes on and on, all of them so distracting and tantalizing to J that he can land himself very, very easily in a lot of trouble. He has gotten hit with shopping carts a few times, all of them lightly thankfully. He has gotten wedged between a metal fence and a building at the Stone Zoo, where I thankfully was able to coax him out before it got even more embarrassing. He’s walked into traffic all in the name of the stim.
I know that stimming is comfort and peace for J. I do not reprimand him for doing it nor do I demand he stop doing it the moment he starts. Catherine, his first ABA provider, saw through to the core of why he does it and taught us well in how to handle it. He can have his time to engage in it and bring himself back to center with it. Once he’s had his time it’s so much easier to ease him away from doing it and refocus him on other activities… unless you’re placing him in chaos. Places that are busy but where you need to go to conduct everyday life business, those are chaos. Those are the places we get in trouble.
J’s dog, when we ever get there, will be trained to help us so much with this. He or she can disrupt him, bodily keeping him from putting himself in harms way either via tethering while I am in control of him or her or by redirecting J’s attention away from the desire to stim and to minding him or her instead. It seems small and silly to some, perhaps, but it is my son’s health and safety. There’s nothing more important to me in the world with that.
And that’s part of our life, summed up in one picture and a whole bunch of words.