Stimming is not the only way in which autistic people engage in repetition.
Autistic people are not “stuck” when we engage in repetitive behaviors. While our repetitive actions may look purposeless to non-autistic people, these repetitions are extremely purposeful. For autistic people, it can be very helpful for us to recognize and embrace the repetitive actions we prefer. This way, we can utilize them to incite calm, focus, and expressions of emotion.
I’m breaking down the DSM-5 ASD assessment, so autistic people can prepare for an ASD evaluation with a fuller knowledge of how to explain their personal traits to a practitioner. The DSM-5 is not the only autism assessment, but its emphasized traits are present in other tools. We’ll take a look at each criterion, its traits, and daily examples of the traits. (I’m not a licensed professional. DSM-5 info is at CDC.gov.)
• DSM-5 B looks at restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. B.1 focuses on: “Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech.”
• ASD traits under DSM-5 B.1 include: simple motor stereotypes, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases.
• Examples: stimming, or self stimulator behaviors that help regulate sensory and social input through repetitive actions such as foot tapping, rocking back-and-forth, twirling, hand-flapping, finger-flicking, jumping up-and-down, clapping, etc.; organizing household decor in straight lines and strict patterns for fun; lining up stuffed animals around the bedroom; mimicking animal sounds; repeating interesting words aloud again and again without realizing it; using uniquely phrased responses consistently, like, “Okie-dokie okay!” or “Shoes by Ish” (instead of “issues”); adding plurals to words, i.e., “grumps” instead of grumpy or “sleeps” instead of sleepy.
DSM-5 C states that “symptoms must be present in the early developmental period.” While that may be frustrating, it’s rewarding to see how ASD has always been a part of our lives since early childhood.