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What are some self-stimulatory behaviors of a child or adult with autism?

Lots of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) use self-stimulating behaviors, or stimming, to cope with sensory overload. Some self-stimulating behaviors of a child or adult with autism include repetitive actions, such as:

  • arm or hand flapping
  • finger flicking
  • rocking backward and forward
  • jumping
  • spinning
  • head banging
  • looking at objects from the corner of their eyes
  • running back and forth
Chantal Sicile-Kira
Mental Retardation & Developmental Disabilities Specialist

Self-stimulatory behaviors of children or adults with autism can involve any one or all the senses. Visual self-stimulatory behavior includes repetitive blinking, staring at lights, and flicking hands in front of eyes. Auditory self-stimulatory behavior includes snapping fingers or dropping wooden puzzle pieces. Tactile self-stimulatory behavior includes rubbing the skin or handling a certain texture over and over. Taste self-stimulation includes licking objects and placing objects in the mouth. Smell stimulation includes sniffing people or objects. Vestibular self stimulation includes rocking back and forth or side to side.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.