Friday, May 22, 2009

The Value of Stim

(Journal entry from 2007)

Autists stim, it is common knowledge. But few understand that stim serves a purpose - actually many purposes. For some it even defines self. This was the case for me.

I am a single modal child. What that means is my senses do not work in cooperation with one another. At birth there was no sense of anything but light and dark. Later, light took on shape and color, but not form. Sound held no meaning at all. It was simply background noise. Touch was an initiation into the world. Touch was an all encompassing thing. To touch was to join, to become part of whatever was touched. I was a shape-shifter, at least that was my tactile perception.

Reality is defined by one’s senses. My reality robbed me of a sense of self. To “be” in mind, but not in body, is a very scary thing. That was my reality. What is reality, what you know to be true or what you experience to be true? And what happens when knowledge and experience meet? This is the value of a simple blade of grass to one young boy, me. It resulted in a meeting between knowledge and experience.

To feel the wind and watch the flow of color was one of my favorite things to do. I would dart about matching the movement and flow. One day there was no movement. The color stood tall and still in front of me. I reached out to touch the color. I wanted to become part of it. Then mom broke off a piece of color and gave it to me. I began to dart about. Only the color did not move with me. I could see and feel its separateness. It was light and I was heavy. I knew I was heavy because I could feel myself sink into the ground with each step I took. The blade stayed light. It swayed to its own rhythm. In it I saw my own separateness. In it, I found myself. After that, I always reached out for the piece of color. Blades of grass provided me a sense of personhood. What to others was just a bit of garbage was a life-line to me.

Can you see the importance of stim? It is so much more than what typical people see. People need to view stim through an autist’s eyes. To see it as they do, as used for their purposes. It would shift the thinking on what to do about it.

I am now 18. My blade of grass was eventually replaced by bits of string: shoelaces, jump ropes, even heavy rope, the string grew as I grew. It is with me still.

My body has since begun to register. I can feel myself as a form now sometimes, most especially when in water. My joy of water is another story, for telling another day. Even now, when things are overwhelming, I can pull out my string to remind me that I am not the source of the chaos. The sights and sounds that so excite and overwhelm me are from outside, not within. I close myself off to them, me and my string, content to know I exist.

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