Repetitive Movements

I started this blog the weekend before my finals and then added a few posts to it and have since been on vacation for the past month and haven’t had time to update it for a while. So, over the next few weeks I will try to post regularly and hopefully answer more questions people might have.

I thought I’d start with something I talked about before but have since realized there’s more to say about it.

When I talked about repetitive movements in my first note, I discussed the tension that sometimes causes repetitive movements for me. However, I forgot that there is another type of movement that I do as well. I’ve somehow learned to control it so it never happens in public, but sometimes when I’m alone in my room I will flap my arms and do other very “autistic” movements.

This type of movement is the kind that comes automatically, like a chill going down your spine that causes you to shiver, but this feeling is more like excitement or energy that runs down your arms and causes you to flap them. It’s hard to explain exactly what happens and I don’t really understand it myself, but I think the best description I can give is an example from the movie “Happy Feet.” In the movie, Mumble’s feet start shuffling and dancing even though he doesn’t really mean them to. His dad asks what he is doing with his feet and he says they’re happy. I think the hand flapping is like that. It’s an extension of the emotion you’re feeling, as if your facial expression isn’t enough to hold that emotion so it comes out in other ways through repetitive movements.

“Stereotyped movements”

“You feel like your insides are trying to come out and there’s all this pressure inside of you like your body is exploding and your skin is the only thing holding it together. This makes you feel really uncomfortable so you try to move around to get comfortable and you twist your hands or shift in your chair or flap your arms, just doing whatever it takes to try to get rid of all that tension in your body. And the thing is, when you’re doing it, you don’t even realize that it’s not normal. I mean, if anyone had that kind of feeling, they’d probably be trying to move around to get rid of it too, right?”

I wrote this a few weeks ago as my take on stereotyped/ repetitive movements that are a symptom of autism. As far as I can tell, researchers haven’t really come up with an explanation for why people with autism use repetitive movement other than that it probably stimulates them in some way.

I’m not saying that this is true for everyone with autism, but in my case, I think this is why I do some strange movements sometimes and maybe it applies to other people as well.