Friday, July 9, 2010

Do stims?

Our beloved home program case manager, Danielle, taught me many things. She listened to the ponderings of my heart for many hours, "played guys" (Playmobil and Winnie the Pooh) with Reid several mornings a week, and trained more tutors than I can recount. Our front door was a turnstile of professionals and paraprofessionals who all delivered: early intervention.

Very early in my education, Danielle shared from her researchers' point of view that if all of us could be plotted somewhere along the autism spectrum (which ranges from normal to severely autistic), then we must all have at least one defining tendency or trait or ritual or stim. If we were honest. Once she confided hers, I was quickly able to identify mine. Over time this enables my empathy with others.

Danielle had a thing for counting the joints on door hinges in her mind as a diversion during meetings or in homes or whenever. I have the anxious, oddly pleasurable habit of running my fingers through my hair and pulling out individual strands like farm girls in Ohio used to do with blades of grass before whistling through them in their thumbs.

I will also confess to a word game of my own creation that I've played with myself since school days. Seeing signage or titles, I get sucked into sorting the words into symmetrical patterns of vowels and consonants. The invisible, consuming game continues until the entire word or phrase comes out even like a division equation. It's akin to diagramming a sentence only by individual letter rather than parts of speech. Hyperlexic much? Danielle's response when I described it was, "Yeah, that's one!"

Reid watches Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks logo trailers backwards and forwards as if memorizing them in his head. He stops and starts the DVD action in order to get a still shot in his brain of each frame. Then in bed or in the car, he rocks his head back and forth which seems to aids in the playback of those memorized scenes. If anyone knows of a paying job for which this skill is useful, please do tell. Here's an all time favorite. Oh the thrill of watching that white glowy trail encircle the castle!

After reading A Slant of Sun by Beth Kephart in those same early years, my mom went out and bought a dozen copies for the extended family. Then she commented, "as I read about her son's fixations, I have to admit I do that too. It made me realize how much I am like Reid." Bear in mind we are a family by adoption so this is more than evidence of the genetic predisposition.

If you care to take this a bit more seriously, here is an online Autism Quotient test which indicates traits that constitute the autism diagnosis and also gives some idea of where you might fall along the spectrum.

Elvis Sightings gives an excellent explanation of the repetitive movements associated with autism. It may be "unproductive, obsessive, obstructive, annoying, consuming" but I know and you know that it is also"pleasurable, centering, meditative, regulating, communing."

Go ahead, do tell us in a comment one of yours...

1 comment:

  1. OH MY HEAVENS. Let's talk about movie logo trailers, shall we??? My son is utterly and totally devoted to them, to the exclusion of nearly all else any more. In fact, unbeknownst to me, he ordered about 10 movies one day, while I napped, watched each one for about 2 minutes (as long as the logos appeared) and moved on to order another one. It's just amazing to me that he will concentrate on this for so long, and other things for so little--and it's amazing to me how many autistic kids are totally into the logos!! I don't know what it is but Columbia/Tri Star is my son's personal favorite right now. What is it they see? Is it the changes from year to year, are they cataloging the variations? Wouldn't this be a wonderful way to teach them to look for variances in other things, like for computer software or...something? I don't know if I have a stim like that. I do read--to the exclusion of everything else, if I have something really GOOD to read--constantly. And when a book is over, I'll have a mini depression about it. A cross between, "Oh, they're gone now!" and "Shoot--what do I read NOW??" My daughter will stim by playing with her bin of pretend spiders (which she dumped over my head once and it made me actually scream), take one out, and bury it in the sofa cushions, and then she must "rescue" it. This is a present stim. She also plays with Leap Pad, and will touch the pen to the same word over and over and over and over until I'm crawling the walls.