For those of you who aren't in the know (you lucky bastards poor uninformed souls) a 'stim' is short for 'self-stimulatory behavior.'
And for those of you who are still wondering what the heck I'm talking about, a self-stimulatory behavior refers to repetitive body movements or repetitive movement of objects often appearing in people with developmental disabilities, but most often in people with autism.
It's not entirely known why people do these stims, but it's thought that they can either calm a person or provide a person with sensory stimulation. Either way, a stim can quickly go from something your loved one does on occasion to a thing that I like to refer to as 'becoming the soundtrack of your life.'
I'm pretty dramatic at times (I KNOW...it's true!) and have always had my own personal movie soundtrack playing in the background of my everyday comings and goings. Like Richard Marx's 'Hold Onto the Night' playing in the background of my 14-year-old self as I lamented on the boy I slow danced with at that forbidden teen club...the one I'd never see again after that magical night. Sigh....
But, alas, I am no longer speaking of such trivialities. This is for real; a constant, sound and sight-filled extravaganza that has been playing in my household (and even in my own head after M has left the building or gone to sleep) for over six years running now.
I thought it might be fun to attempt to recall the 'set list' of stims as performed by my boy over the years. I'm doing this partly for my own documentation, partly for those of you new to this who may be wondering if what your child is doing might be a stim, and partly to make myself attempt a chuckle over some things that have really and truly caused me and the rest of my family a wee bit of mental anguish at times, concern at others, and has, well, possibly contributed to the intake of more wine on certain days.
Let's give it a go, shall we? (Please note that stims generally have legs of about 4-9 months in my little man's world. Sometimes they overlap before fading away, and other times one disappears and is replaced by another stim so quickly that I realize I had forgotten to perform my naked, stim-be-gone ritual where I light sage smudges on fire throughout my home and dance to Disney music while simultaneously watching the 'Cars' movie over and over and over again.) That last part was just to see if you were paying attention :) In all seriousness, here are the ones I can recall:
1. The side to side 'no' head shake.
2. The body stiffening proclamation of 'EEEE!' (Wasn't that the title of a Mariah Carey album? No??)
3. Rubbing his feet together at a face pace while making sounds; usually when excited. (This one's never really gone away)
4. The exersaucer-jump-wildly-up-and-down stim. (Totally didn't realize that's what it was at the time!)
5. The raspberry stim. (This one was so bad that I remembered telling the other half it was the thing that made me know that something was seriously not right with my child. Oddly enough, even though I remember what I dubbed it, I cannot exactly recall how it sounded)
6. The scream. (oh.my.gosh)
7. The shirt chew. (We vividly recalled this period recently when opening up the hand-me-down bin of size threes to B and noted that there were barely any shirts in there!)
8. The finger chew. (Yuck)
9. The book, magazine and plastic toy chew. (Frustrating, especially because books are one of M's only enjoyments)
10. The book and magazine crumple.
11. The leather couch chew (Total yuck. This one has left our couch with delightful small-mouthed teeth marks. We are very happy we bought this couch on Craigslist!) *Please note that, YES, we do give M chew tubes, but it has taken us a very long time to get past the irresistible nature of textures other than the chew tube.
...and now we are current with the following two stims...
12. The scratch-the-walls or scratch-anything-leather stim. (This one will cost us when we put our home on the market in the near future)
Drumroll, please, as I present to you the grandaddy of all stims...
13. The high-pitched, sing-songy, every-waking-moment, never-a-space-in-time-without-sound stim! (This one's a doozie folks!)
So while I've made light out of these here, let's be honest...stims are a very difficult thing for families to tolerate. But as difficult as they are, I totally get that the sound, lights and movement of everyday life are even more difficult for my child. I cannot tell you how many times I have said to M that I really and truly wished he could talk to me and tell me what these stims do for him.
You know how people ask who--past or present--you'd want to sit down and have a conversation with? I think Jesus and Elvis are generally some of the most popular answers. Well, for me, it would be M. To have a conversation with a verbal, lucid and focused M. Man...wouldn't that be cool?
...Cue The Rolling Stones 'You Can't Always Get What You Want...'
Mama Deb sometimes attempts to be funny even when life is not at This Is My New Normal.