Shhh…Quiet Please! Reducing Verbal Stimming and Scripting in Children with Autism - Autism Mom, ABA Help for Professionals and Parents

A common question I get is how to teach a child to be quiet during activities where verbal stimming or scripting is disruptive.

Download cheatsheet here
Have you ever been in a lecture where the material is way too easy or completely over your head? If you get in these situations what do you do? I bet you might doodle, play with your hair, or scroll through your Facebook newsfeed on your phone. This is the equivalent of a child with autism engaging in self-stimulatory behavior (otherwise known as “stimming”).

We all stim. In fact our solitary leisure activities (such as shooting a basketball into a hoop for a few minutes, playing the violin, or watching reality TV) are actually stimming. These self-stimulatory behaviors keep the neurons in our brain firing while we are not meaningfully engaged with others or working on a task where we need to concentrate.

Since children with autism usually have poor language, social, and leisure skills, some kids with autism engage in stim behavior for hours each day and these stim behaviors are often very disruptive across a variety of settings.

Stimming can take very different forms. Some kids might engage in stimming by rocking their bodies, flapping their fingers or by making loud vocalizations while kids with higher language abilities might script lines from movies, build the same lego structures over and over, or watch the same YouTube clips for hours.

As both a BCBA-D and a mom of a son with autism, you might be surprised to learn that unless a stim behavior is dangerous,  I almost never work on decreasing minor stim behavior directly.

Instead of focusing on decreasing the stimming (rocking, moaning, scripting, etc.), I work on improving language and learning skills and eventually replacing very odd and immature stim behaviors with more socially appropriate leisure activities.

I also suggest that if there are activities or parts of a day that verbal stimming or scripting is high and disruptive (such as during a lengthy church service or inclusion in math class), these activities may need to be stopped or additional supports or services added so the child can be more appropriately engaged.

For more information on how to reduce stimming, download my cheatsheet with 6 Steps to Reduce Minor Self-Stim Behavior in Children with Autism.

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