I see this defense of stimming a lot:
- It’s wrong to train autistic people not to stim
- They use it to compensate for overload
- Or to focus
- Or to compensate for other problems
- Or to express distress
All of this is true. But it also misses the point. Stimming isn’t just a coping mechanism. It’s much more than that. Stimming is a positive part of autistic experience, not an unfortunate-but-functionally-important thing we have to do.
Imagine if facial expressions and tones of voice were considered wrong, and someone defended them this way:
- It is wrong to teach children to adopt a flat affect
- Children need to be able to frown
- Children need to be able to indicate through the tone of their voice that something is wrong
- Children need to be able to cry. That’s a way of coping with pain and overload
All of those things are true. But if that’s all defenders of tone and facial expression said, it would be horribly misleading. Body language and tones are more than that, and they are good.
Stimming is like that too.
- Stimming is not just necessary. It is also natural, and good
- Flapping in response to a nice texture is not fundamentally different from smiling in response to the smell of a flower
- Rocking in response to someone saying something offensive is not fundamentally different from frowning in response to a slur
- It is ok for autistic people to have autistic body language