Sunday, March 11, 2012

What Autism Looks Like: Repetitive Speech and Motions

The past few weeks I've been trying to catch Hayden in the act when he displays behaviors typical to Autism, and video tape them.  

This video is an example of repetitive motions. In the Autism world, this is called Stimming, originally named for the idea that the child is self-stimulating, or entertaining himself. It is also often a self-soothing behavior, meaning that he is calming himself down.  Hayden usually displays stimming when under stress, at the end of the day, or when he has nutritional imbalances going on. He used to stim all day;  now it is off and on during the day, some days not at all.  

Stimming is often exhibited by shaking the hands back and forth, spinning in circles, or flapping the hands.  This is how Hayden usually stims, by shaking a toy back and forth.  He used to do this for hours.  Now you can see that it is in short bursts.

This next video is an example of repetitive speech.  Similar to stimming, the behavior gets in a cycle and usually won't stop without intervention.  You can see that when I interrupt him, he responds, but it did take some time to get him to the point where he would respond to me.  This has been accomplished by his therapists at Cornerstone through ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis).  They made sure to require him to respond when spoken to, rather than ignoring the person speaking to him and continuing in his own world.  Of course this didn't happen over night but was one of Hayden's early goals at the center.  

In my opinion, a little bit of stimming is ok because it's good for kids to self-soothe.  But when the child gets into a spiral of behavior that they can't get out of, that's not good.  There are different opinions about stopping Autistic children from stimming.  I think as they get closer to introduction to elementary school, they need to be taught more socially appropriate ways of self-soothing so they're not bullied.  At Cornerstone they've been teaching Hayden several of these, such as talking himself through his emotions, or asking to take a break when he's stressed. I also think that stopping the child after a minute of stimming is a good thing, to teach him that there is more to the world than observing the spinning of his hand.  When he is introduced to interesting things going on around him, he is able to see that he can interact with his environment and his peers.  The world contains more than just him.

Too much stimming is a sign for me that something is off with Hayden.  When I see a lot of stimming I think about what stressors he may be experiencing this week, or what changes may be happening with his diet. Often if I feel he's had a stressful day, I will squish his arms or body to help him calm down.

Why am I posting these videos?
Several reasons.

I hope that they will help educate people about what Autism is and isn't.
I hope they will help parents realize that their child may need to be diagnosed for Autism.
I hope they will help parents already dealing with Autism learn ways to cope with its symptoms.
I hope that some day Hayden will be recovered from Autism, and these videos will be evidence of how he once acted, and that Autism is treatable.


Laura Cirksena said...

This is very helpful, thanks!

Sheila Carney said...

You're welcome! Let me know if you have any questions! :) Sheila

Bethany said...

Thank you for posting these! SO MUCH like my son! Very helpful to have these behaviors explained and "named'. Thanks again!

Sheila Carney said...

You're welcome! I'm so glad it was helpful!