Stopping the “stimming”….a developmental therapist’s view.

How it feels to a kiddo when we stop them from “stimming”….Is it harmful when someone forces them to stop or suppress their “stimming?”

You bet it is!

Speak to someone on the autism spectrum about how it feels. They describe it as very uncomfortable and sometimes even painful. It causes their nervous system to become unbalanced and “unregulated.” And it stops them from being in learning mode. It is like telling a person NOT to yawn or sneeze. Try not to scratch an itch…What happens?…The itch gets worse doesn’t it?

It helps to understand WHY someone who NEEDS to “stim” has the need in the first place. First…What is a “stim”? It is any of various repetitive actions or sounds that are rhythmic and regular, and that are either self-soothing or that stimulate one or more senses. Some examples of these are flapping the hands, rocking the body, spinning a chair, lining up toys, chewing on things or hard blinking of the eye lids. Most everyone “stims” in some way (nail biting, hair twirling, foot tapping, knuckle cracking, whistling, humming, doodling etc etc). But a person with autism does this more frequently than their neurotypical counterpart. These things calm emotions down, release physical tensions and/or reduce anxiety, by focusing the attention onto the stim or by producing a calming change in the body. By stimming, a body’s sensory system can be more regulated and more balanced. Eye contact is easier when a person is relaxed. Social interactions are easier when a person is relaxed. Learning is easier when a person is relaxed.

Stims are very diverse and are unique to each individual person. A body will find the perfect way for that body to calm when needed. If we allow it. It is an integral part of that person. Telling them that their stim is wrong is telling them that THEY are wrong. The more they are around people that feel this way about them and their stim, the more they will need to do it.

What can you do to help a person that stims? You can re-frame your thinking about the stim. Try doing it yourself. See how it feels. Figure out how that person benefits from taking part in this behavior. View it as a priceless tool for that person to be successful.

When you appreciate the stim, you support the person doing it.

by Michelle Lindee, developmental therapist


An 8-week program for children age 3-6 with sensory processing differences

Children with sensory processing differences have difficulty with regulation, which sometimes makes it difficult for them to interact with the world around them. Our Sensory Explorers group targets regulation in order to build engagement! This group is led by pediatric occupational therapists Mackenzie Baldock (2:30 group) OR Meghan Day (8:30 group) and developmental therapist/PLAY Project Consultant Brenna Thompson, all of whom specialize in using developmentally appropriate strategies to support children so they can learn new skills. Group meets once/week for 60 minutes.

Wondering if this class is appropriate for your child? Some characteristics of kids who benefit: easily frustrated with play, repetitive play, difficulty sitting/keeping still to engage in play, refuses to allow others to engage in play, unable to be messy, overly busy, quickly overwhelmed in a busy environment, picky eater, difficulty tolerating grooming/dressing/diapering routines, struggles with transitions/following a group plan/routine. 

Goals of the group include:

  • Child participating in a variety of sensory play activities
  • Engaging socially with others in the group
  • Providing a non threatening environment where children can experience new sensations with the support of a pediatric Occupational Therapist and PLAY Project consultant
  • Providing personalized resources to caregivers, so they better understand the sensory system and learn strategies to assist their child with regulation outside of group
  • Opportunity to meet with other local families

GROUP MEETS for 8 weeks:  Caregivers must stay on the premises to support their child and learn helpful strategies. Children will separate from caregivers for the session; caregivers can socialize in the lobby (we will also provide a few toys for siblings to play). Caregiver education is a key component of this program. 


OPTIONAL Summary Report available at close of session. This 2 page report will summarize your child’s participation in the class and provide helpful sensory strategies to increase their participation in activities. This report could be given to teachers in classrooms & daycares or utilized to help educate other caregivers about ways to help your child participate. This option includes a 30 minute Zoom meeting with Brenna and MacKenzie/Brenna and Meghan to review the report and discuss your child’s progress in Sensory Explorers. COST: $100 due at sign up