Help: Stimming in Autism

Tonyia Posts:

DEAR ERI COMMUNITY: I’m looking for any advice regarding a current student I work with. He is a 9 y/o boy with severe Autism, hard of hearing, and cognitive delay. His stims have been increasing lately, approximately the last 6-8 weeks, we’ve seen new stims including drawing on himself and in the air, arm flapping, running in circles, can not stand still longer than 2 sec (I know these are “typical” stims). His normal stims are drawing on white board over and over, looking at his drawings with his peripheral vision, and rocking. The stimming is constant throughout his day and nights, compared to previously a handful of times throughout the day. We are a residential school, so he is here 5 days/nights a week. He has also started touching other boys in their genitals, repetitively. He has developed an unhealthy relationship with another classmate, who he needs to be next to at all times, is constantly touching him, if the other child leaves the room, he begins to cry and perseverates on that boy until he returns. The teacher and aides have them separated in the classroom so there is no touching that can happen, unless this boy runs over and grabs the other boy. The other boy does not encourage these behaviors. He is caring toward the other student, but often wants a lot of separation between the two of them.

I know that stims change, come and go, intensify at times, one needs to be replaced with another. We have always been able to redirct him in the past, we’ve worked with increasing his sensory diet and he communicates his needs most of the time now. He is never denyed sensory when we feel he needs it or when he requests it.

So, the real question is: does anyone have any ideas what can be causing the increase in stimming and behavior, plus treatment ideas please. Our behavior specialist is helping with the changes as well, but hasn’t come up with anything effective yet.

Thank you,

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One Response to Help: Stimming in Autism

  1. First, kudos to you to the incredible hard work you do! I have found working with kids with Autism to be very challenging but very rewarding! Second, stemming occurs when the child is trying to reorient to his environment which “doesn’t make sense” and causes the anxiety. It is crucial that this child be given cognitive intervention to be able to reorient to person/time/place, AND deal with sensory overload when surroundings change/are too noisy/fast paced etc. It sounds as if there is a trigger yet unknown. Have you discovered if his personal life has changed? Third, I’m glad there’s a behavior specialist as part of the team, who I hope has done an ABC chart AND talked to the OT on the team re: his increased sensory diet needs. Finally, Is there a speech therapist on board who can:
    1. help write a Social Story with personalized photos on the “right way” to interact with that other boy, which can be reviewed before the 2 kids interact, and right after again, and even photograph/video the interaction?
    2. implement a visual schedule with a timer and embedded reinforcers that will appeal the the child, such as allowing him (with a timer set for 5-10 min or so) to “stim” to release tension, by rocking more appropriately such as in a rocking chair or drawing on how own mini dry erase board or Etch a Sketch, or visit with that boy as long as he keeps his hands to himself, and then he HAS to do another activity or 2 before getting the reward/reinforcer all over again?
    3. Create a visual representation of a “My Rules” Chart and a “Rewards Chart” to be reviewed at the start of each teachable moment or activity so that the boy’s mental framework is restructured and he knows what to expect

    I hope this helps! I’d be happy to be contacted further! Good Luck!

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