Monthly Archives: February 2010

To Stim or Not to Stim?

Please note that I originally posted this back in July of 2008 over at 5 Minutes for Special Needs. I figured it would be a good idea to share it here (along with a couple of edits). You can find the original post here.

Stimming has been a much-discussed topic in my home, at school, and at doctors’ and therapists’ offices. In the early days of Zoe’s diagnosis, we were instructed by doctors and therapists that stimming was a behavior that needed to be eliminated if our child was to function in a “normal” world. Over time we came to realize that Zoe’s stimming, as long as it wasn’t physically harmful to her, was very comforting to her. And as controversial a decision as that may be, we don’t have a problem with allowing Zoe to stim.

For those who are not familiar with it, stimming is a term that means “self-stimulatory behaviors.” It’s the type of repetitive behaviors often seen in autistic children (though I read somewhere that as many as 10% of non-autistics also stim)*. Autistics may stim in a variety of different ways, including (but not limited) to:

• Tactile: squeezing, clapping, hair pulling
• Vestibular: rocking, spinning
• Proprioception: teeth grinding, pacing*
• Auditory: humming, grunting, tapping
• Olfactory: smelling objects, smelling people
• Gustatory: licking, putting things in mouth
• Visual: lining up objects, hand flapping

My daughter likes tactile stimulation the most. Since she was a toddler, Zoe has enjoyed squeezing her hands together. She takes her right hand and squeezes her left thumb at the base of the finger—where the fleshy muscle lies at the palm of the hand. Occasionally she will also do some more vestibular-type stimming like rocking.

Our initial concerns were that Zoe was causing damage to her hands by this repetitive (and may I say forceful) hand-wringing. She was beginning to cause damage to her hands; we could see her wrist and fingers were starting to show signs of wear and tear. Not wanting to take her beloved stim away from her, we got her some therapeutic stim toys to help her. Now when she wants to stim, Zoe squeezes the toys instead of her hand; she gets the stimulation she craves without hurting her hands. Examples of therapeutic “stim-friendly” toys can be found at a few different sites. We personally like the ones we purchased at Abilitations, but do experiment with different types of fidget toys until you find the one that’s best for your child.

I sat down with Zoe to ask her why she enjoys stimming so much. Her response was, “Well, it feels good to my hands.” When I probed a bit deeper, she explained that many times she feels that her hands need to be touching something, not just hanging there on her arms. Zoe said that stimming helps her remain calm in stressful times, or in really loud places (which make her nervous). She also thanked us for buying her the squeeze toys she now uses, because “my hands used to hurt when I stimmed, but now they feel better.” Even though she was experiencing some pain, she was willing to live with the discomfort as long as she could continue getting the sensory stimulation she needed. Now she’s happy (and pain-free) and able to enjoy her stim, and we can feel more at ease about letting her enjoy it.  

We have also found that setting reasonable limits on her stim time helps. Zoe has become more adept at limiting her stimming time to certain portions of the day; for example, she has learned to avoid stimming while she is in class because it tends to keep her off-task and disengaged from her teachers and peers. Before and right after school she takes some time to get herself grounded, and that sometimes includes using stimming or other techniques to get her relaxed. It’s not always easy for her to stick to this, but she’s getting better at it all the time.

* You’ll noticed that I placed an asterisk next to the sections that talk about the non-autistics who stim and proprioception. I marked them because I must include myself in this category. My short, sharp teeth are proof of that.

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Product Review: Enjoy Life Crunchy Flax and Enjoy Life Crunchy Rice

In the interest of full disclosure, please note that while I did not receive monetary compensation for this review, the manufacturer did provide me with product samples.

The folks from Enjoy Life Foods (love their allergen-free chocolate chips!) contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in trying some of their products. As you may already know, all Enjoy Life products are free of the eight most common allergens: wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish or shellfish (which is great for those of us with food allergies/sensitivities). Perky’s Nutty Flax and Perky’s Nutty Rice are now a part of the Enjoy Life brand, and so the company has rebranded the cereals under new names. So if you’re already a Perky’s Nutty Rice or Nutty Flax person you will be pleased to know that they haven’t gone away, it’s just now they’re called Enjoy Life Crunchy Rice and Enjoy Life Crunch Flax.

Anyway, I happily accepted the samples—I mean, with the way we go through cereal in this house I’d be crazy not to! And I guess the samples arrived just in time, because Zoe and Ayden tore through those boxes of cereal in NO TIME. In fact, I didn’t even get to try them. I had to go out and buy them myself just so I could get to the review part.

I’m so glad I did, because the cereals are both really good. They’re not very sweet, which I like a lot; I actually like the taste of grains, so when I find something that is not cloyingly sweet, it makes me happy.  They stay crunchy in milk for a long time, something that surprised me because of the fact that the cereal is in small pieces. And my goodness, do I ever hate when ready-to-eat cereal gets mushy. It’s just gross.  Anyway, the cereal also lends itself well to add-ins like fresh fruit: bananas and blueberries were Zoe’s favorite. These kind of reminded me of Grape Nuts, but the taste of the Nutty Rice and Nutty Flax is better…and they don’t hurt my sensitive teeth when I bite into them (Bonus!). I plan on using the cereal for other applications, to see how they function as bread crumbs, or maybe even a pie crust. So I guess there will be even more to talk about with regards to these products in the future!

The bottom line here is that we all really liked both the Crunchy Rice and Crunchy Flax, and we will definitely continue buying them. My local health food store has been running a sale on them, so I’ll be stocking up this week. To find out more about the products, and to find store locations, visit them at www.enjoylifefoods.com.