Saturday, 26 October 2013

Rock on

Rocking is a well known stim, but it took me a while to realise I do it.

I'd seen rocking frequently described as "back and forth" or similar wording, and in my literal mind that means a forwards-and-back motion.  I didn't twig that my gentle side-to-side motion is also rocking, just on a different axis.

That's how I roll.  Er, rock.
So I did a highly unscientific study by asking on Tumblr who rocked which way.  Here are the results so far:

Forwards and back: 3
Side to side: 2
Both: 9.  Most people mentioned that they do the two in response to different emotional states, and others mentioned that they rock forwards and back while sitting, and side to side while standing.
Both, and also diagonally: 1
Other rocking-type movements: 2.  Such as rotating back and forth at the hips.  I find myself doing a sort of figure-of-eight bobbing action sometimes, which probably falls into this category too.
Doesn't rock: 1, but this is probably a massive under-representation of non-rockers.  I'd assume a lot of people who don't rock didn't bother answering, since the question was loaded towards those who did.

So, what does this teach us?  Well, nothing, obviously, with a sample size of a dozen or so.  But it does illustrate just how varied an apparently simple action can be.

I think we need to stop talking about stimming in terms of specific behaviours, like rocking and hand flapping, and instead talk about when and why it happens and what it means.  Because if you have an unusual stim that isn't on the list, that doesn't mean it's not a stim.  Similarly something that is a recognised stim doesn't always have to be: there are all sorts of reasons one might flap their hands, after all.

I once had someone ask me for a list of Twitter's hashtags - as in, a complete list of all of them.  There is no such list, because they're constantly evolving, sometimes in a matter of moments, and there are potentially more hashtags than actual tweets.  Thinking about stimming just as a list of particular bodily movements is a bit like asking for a list of hashtags - it does rather miss the spirit of the thing.