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Do you ever wonder why your child stims, rocks and paces? There are valid reasons for why they do this and it is something that helps them to function.


Stimming is often a repetitive behaviour that people do to help self regulate their bodies, stimulate their senses and to express how they might be feeling. Stimming is very different for everyone and should never be regarded as a problem behaviour.

It can be used to stimulate the visual sense especially if the person is under sensitive and needs to seek out that input or stimulation. An example of this might be the continual movement of an object back and forth that is held up close to the eye (ie, flashing lights and balls, cars or toys)

Stimming can be very calming for a person when they feel anxious, upset or frustrated and is something that they can do for themselves to help feel more centred. As a parent or support person, it is important to develop an understanding of what your child or adult is attempting to communicate through stimming so that you are able to support them when they are feeling those different emotions.

Rocking & Pacing

Regulating the body may also come in the form of movement such as rocking or pacing – rocking (moving the body back and forth in the one place) and pacing (such as walking back and forth continuously) are self regulatory behaviours that provide the person with the sensory input needed or the movement that helps to calm the body.

Pacing can sometimes signal many things and again, each person paces for different reasons such as the following:

  • anxiety caused by change and unexpected change/transition
  • uncertainty and not knowing what’s happening in the moment or ahead of time
  • the need to move to get the sensory input needed to regulate the body

Pacing can also be combined with things such as fingers in the ears demonstrating that the person is worried or concerned about something – this can be quite often confused with the person having sore ears or that the environment is noisy. It’s up to you to observe and work out what they are communicating particularly if the person is non-verbal.

Just remember that stimming, rocking and pacing are behaviours that a person needs to do in order to stay calm and feel balanced! Encourage and provide feedback to use whatever they need that works!

Written by Sherri Cincotta

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