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Autism Relaxation to Decrease Stimming

This autism relaxation script is for helping to decrease stimming. Stims are repetitive behaviors that stimulate the senses, and are used to regulate one’s level of sensory arousal. Regulating the levels of sensation experienced, called sensory regulation, can help to decrease these types of behaviors. This guided relaxation script aims to increase your ability to achieve optimal levels of sensations.


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Before you begin the relaxation to decrease stimming, find a room that is dark and quiet. A room that is as plain as possible works best, with a comfortable bed or chair. In this room, you can adjust the sensations around you to fit your needs and provide just the right level of stimulation. Going to a dark, quiet room removes some of the sensations around you to help decrease stimulation and allow you to become calm.

There are some more things you may need for this relaxation to decrease stimming, which I will list in a moment. Please gather some of these items, or ask someone else to get them for you. It’s okay if you don’t have these items yet. Even if you don’t have any of them, you can do the relaxation exercise anyway.

You might need:
A flashlight or coloured lamp
Tinted or coloured glasses
Bright-coloured objects
Sound you can control, such as headphones with music, white noise, or repetitive sounds
Different textures that you can touch with your skin - dough, sand, a rubber ball, fabric
Nice-smelling things like perfume, flowers, scented candles, scented markers, or air fresheners
Chewing gum
Flavorful sour fruit (such as lemons or kiwi) and sweet fruit (such as bananas or strawberries)
Small candies (like jelly beans or mints)
An exercise ball, inflated cushion, or swing
A heavy blanket
Bean bags or soft weights

Pause the recording here to gather the things you need, and when you are ready, press play to resume.

When you have gathered the objects you have available or the ones you would like to use, place them in the dark, quiet room with you.

Now get comfortable. You can sit, stand, or lie down on a chair, bed, or on the floor.

It is okay to use behaviors like hand flapping, clapping, rocking, and other stims to feel better, as long as the behaviors do not hurt you or someone else. Stimming becomes problematic if the behaviour is used all the time or if you want to decrease stimming and are not able to.

Stimming behaviors are not wrong. Sometimes they may be considered unacceptable. For example, frequent clapping in public may be seen as unusual. We all do stimming behaviors, whether or not we have autism and whether or not these behaviors are considered a problem. Everyone uses stims, at least sometimes. Most common types of stims are things like twirling the hair, nail biting, tapping, or fidgeting. People with autism tend to stim more than the average person, but the behavior is similar, and the same types of solutions can be used.

The objective of this relaxation exercise is to help you to use these behaviors in a place and time that is appropriate, and decrease stimming behaviors at other times.

Before you begin to relax, you can take some time, right now, to do any safe stimming that you need to do. This dark, quiet room is a place where stims are okay. For the next three minutes, do any stimming you would like to do that does not cause harm. I’ll let you know when the time is up. Go ahead and begin.

(Pause 3 minutes)

The three minutes are up. Now it’s time to relax. If you are able to stop the stimming behavior, do so now. Allow yourself to become still. If you need to continue the stimming for now, it’s okay. Just focus on the relaxation to follow, and allow yourself to naturally decrease stimming. You can decrease stimming. You do not have to decrease stimming all at once. You can take your time, and decrease stimming at your own pace. Decrease stimming easily, naturally, slowly.

Breathe in as you reach up above your head...stretching...reaching...hold the breath as you hold the tension in your muscles...and then relax...breathe out...let your arms return to your sides.

Breathe in and reach up above your head...hold...and breathe out as you relax...returning your arms to your sides.

Clench your hands into tight fists as you breathe in. Hold...squeeze tighter...and relax...breathe out. Let your hands be open and limp.

Breathe in...squeezing your hands into fists. Hold...tighter...and breathe out...relaxing your hands. Allow your hands to become limp and loose.

Breathe in...and out...

In...and out...

Keep breathing slowly like this...allowing each breath to calm and relax you.

Bend forward at the waist now, tightening the muscles of your chest and stomach as you breathe in. Keep your body leaning forward, feeling the tension in the muscles. Hold...and now breathe out as you straighten up, relaxing the muscles of your chest and stomach. Return to a neutral position, comfortable and relaxed.

Repeat as you breathe in, leaning forward, bending into a curve...tighten your stomach muscles and hold that tension...tighter...now relax as you breathe out...resuming a neutral position with your shoulders above your hips...letting go of tension...

Breathe slowly and comfortably...allowing a feeling of relaxation to deepen.

Now arch your back slightly...tensing the muscles of your back as you breathe in. Hold the tension...and then relax...breathe out...returning to a neutral, natural position...keeping the natural curves of your spine.

Breathe in and arch your back again, tensing your back muscles. Hold...and release. Breathe out...letting the muscles of your back relax...becoming relaxed and loose...

Breathe naturally...deeply...smoothly...feeling relaxation deepen with each breath you take.

Tense the muscles of your legs as you take a breath in. Hold this tension, feeling how tight and tense your leg muscles are...and then relax...breathe out as the muscles of your legs relax and give up tension.

Tense your leg muscles again as you breathe in...very tight and tense and rigid...and breathe out..relaxing...softening...letting your legs become completely limp.

Breathe naturally...deeply...smoothly...feeling relaxation deepen with each breath you take.

Rub your hands together now...letting your palms become very warm. Feel the warmth generated by the friction of your hands rubbing together. Becoming very warm. Such a pleasant feeling as you rub your palms together.

Now place your hands on your face. You may want to cover your eyes. Just rest your face in your hands. Feel how warm your hands are against your face...and notice how cool your cheeks and forehead are. Your hands are pleasantly warm...your face is pleasantly cool...

Your hands feel so soothing against your face...such a restful...calm feeling...peaceful and serene...just resting and relaxing with your hands resting gently on your face...

Now you can return your arms to your sides. Let your arms become limp. So very limp...feeling heavy...loose and relaxed...

Just relax now...sinking into a pleasant feeling of relaxation...

(Pause)

Notice how you are feeling right now. How much tension is still present? How relaxed are you feeling?

Do you have the urge to use stimming behavior? You can re-direct that urge using other behaviors. What sensations need additional stimulation? For example, if you have the urge to engage in hand flapping, perhaps the sense of touch and movement require additional stimulation. Instead of using hand flapping, maybe you could use another behavior, such as squeezing a stress ball.

Maybe increasing input or stimulation of another sensation could be helpful. You can experiment to find out what is most effective.

Now you can use the objects you brought with you into this nice, dark, quiet room to help with your own sensory regulation - bringing your senses to the level you need.

Here are some ways that you can increase or decrease sensory input. You may want to pause this audio when you hear something you want to try, and take 2 minutes to try it before resuming. Or you might want to listen to the whole list, and then decide if you would like to try any of these types of activities. You can do these activities now, or try some later - whatever you prefer. Here are some possible activities to adjust sensations in each of the senses:

Vision: Use a light that you control, like a flashlight or coloured lamp. Wear tinted glasses. Place bright-coloured objects around you.

Hearing: Sound you can control, such as headphones with music, white noise, or repetitive sounds. Ear plugs to block out unwanted sounds.

Touch: Different textures that you can touch with your skin - dough, sand, rubber ball, fabric. Wear comfortable clothes that feel good against your skin - try cotton or silk. Wrap in a heavy blanket, wear a weighted vest, place bean bags or weights on your shoulders, wrists, or ankles.

Smell: Wear perfume, smell flowers, use scented candles, draw with scented markers, use air fresheners.

Taste: Chew gum, snack on flavorful sour fruit (such as lemons or kiwi) and sweet fruit (such as bananas or strawberries), eat small candies (like jelly beans or mints) once in a while.

Movement: Sit on an exercise ball, inflated cushion, or swing. Do some exercises such as jumping jacks.

You can try some of these things now if you want to. Pause this audio to give yourself time to try out some of these ideas, and see which ones are most effective. Press play again when you are ready to resume the relaxation exercise.

(Pause)

I hope you were able to find an alternative to stims that helped you feel calm and decrease stimming. If not, that’s okay. It can take some experimenting to find out what works best. You may experience the most benefit by doing this relaxation exercise often, and practicing different activities.

To decrease stimming day-to-day, you may want to begin by scheduling when you allow the stimming to occur. If stimming usually occurs most of the time, start with short breaks where you will do something else. For example, use stimming for 30 minutes, and then take 5 minutes to sit on an exercise ball and do stretches. Gradually increase the periods of time when you engage in different activities, slowly lengthening the time that you do not use stimming. You can slowly teach yourself alternatives and decrease stimming.

If you find that stimming happens when you are stressed, or happens randomly throughout the day, you may find it helpful to schedule planned stimming sessions. Schedule 5 or 10 minutes to do all the stimming you want, as long as the behavior does not harm you or anyone else. By using stims all at once at a time and place you choose, you can decrease stimming overall, or at least decrease stimming that occurs randomly.

By practicing alternatives to stims, and changing when and where you do stimming, you can decrease stimming that is problematic, and feel better overall.

Let’s conclude this relaxation exercise with some stretches to allow you to feel alert and calm.

Bring your arms straight up, beside your ears, with your hands pointing up toward the ceiling.

Now lower your arms to shoulder height, pointing out to the sides like a T.

Bring your arms forward, keeping at shoulder height but pointing straight out in front.

Bring your arms back to the sides like a T...and then lower your arms to your sides.

Point your toes, stretching and straightening your legs. Now bring your toes up toward your shins, stretching the back of your legs. Return your feet to a neutral position.

Place your right hand on your right hip, and lean to the right, stretching the left side of your body. Straighten up and place your left and on your left hip. Lean to the left, stretching the right side of your body. Return to the center.

Take a deep breath in...hold...and exhale. Return to full alertness and wakefulness. When you are completely awake and alert, you can return to your day feeling calm.




See the accompanying script Timed Stim Break


Return from Autism Relaxation to Decrease Stimming to Relaxation Scripts


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