Sounds can bring both joy and pain into an autistic person’s sensory experience. While harsh or discordant noises can send our brains reeling into overload, music and soft white noise are often embraced as a form of stimming. Aural or auditory stimming uses a person’s sense of hearing to engage in repetitive listening that causes a release of endorphins. This neurological release can help soothe anxiety, stress, and overload.
Personally, I believe sensory sensitivity is one of the factors that makes aural stimming so impactful. Autistic people can hear the multiple layers, patterns, and intricacies behind sound. Even so, we might find ourselves sensorily overwhelmed by our favorite auditory stims. Here are my personal Do’s and Don’ts of audio stimming:
DO: Shamelessly listen to that beloved song on repeat. Even if everyone around us is tired of hearing that song, it’s a harmless way of unwinding and feeling good.
DON’T: Keep the volume too loud. Loud music can be fun in short bursts, but without realizing it, we may stim ourselves into a rattled overload.
DO: Repeat fun-sounding words back to ourselves. It’s a simple treat to say a new or interesting word with our own mouth. When this is compulsory, it’s called echolalia, and I can personally say that once I restarted to embrace this, my joy has increased.
DON’T: Play hype music when sensorily overloaded, even if it’s a favorite track. Try a gentler track of music or some calming rain sounds instead.
DO: Combine auditory stimming with other stims. Tactile, visual, and vestibular stims go hand-in-hand with aural stimming. Snapping and clapping, music videos and visualizes, and dancing and exercise can be great enhancers.
DON’T: Aurally stim before bedtime. Music can increase our heart rate and amp us up. Opt for at least 30 minutes of silence before going to sleep.