Self-stimulatory behavior is defined by repetitive body movements or repetitive movement of objects. Examples of this include hand-flapping, body rocking, and spinning in circles. Self-stimulatory behavior can also be vocal – the child repeats words and phrases over and over.
One reason that these behaviors are considered inappropriate is that they do not match the current environmental or social context (and so can be socially stigmatizing). Additionally, the child may engage in these behaviors for long periods of time, sometimes for several hours, without interruption, which can also impede the child learning other needed skills. These behaviors are often self-reinforcing – the child doesn’t need another person to provide reinforcement. The child provides both the action and the reinforcer. Self-stimulatory behavior is often sensory in nature and can also indicate a deficit in leisure and play skills.
In this lesson, strategies for redirecting the child to more appropriately meet sensory needs and in more socially appropriate ways are discussed.