By Kodey Toney
I talked a couple weeks ago about Konner’s pacing and how it was a form of stimming for him. I want to explore that a little bit more this week.
Have you ever noticed how sometimes dogs will work their way around a new house or new room smelling everything? They have to make sure that they know all about the new room and the people. They explore every corner, every inch, and every smell of that room. They want to make sure they're safe and there's nothing there to harm them. Now I'm not saying children on the autism spectrum are dogs, but I notice when Konner gets into a new space he paces constantly. This pacing is actually him exploring every inch of that new place. It happened in the condo in Florida, it happen every year in the new classroom, it happens in new stores or places we visit, and it happens on playgrounds.
I recently assisted the Youth Leadership Forum in Chickasha presented by the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council. This is a summer camp for young adults preparing for post-secondary education. Students with disabilities from all over the state were there to become better prepared for the transition into college, technical school, and life. While there I noticed many of the kids that I suspect had autism doing the same thing in the room that Konner does. Some of them would get up and walk around, pace little bit, and move throughout the room. I suspected this could've been because I was a stranger, and maybe I made them a little uncomfortable. It could have been that they were with a lot of different people that they really didn't know well. However, I noticed too that they were exploring the entire space. The room we were presenting in was attached to a separate game room, and they would wander into the other room and come back. Of course they could just like silence of the adjoining room since the one we were in tended to get a little noisy at times. Either way they were pacing as a way to stim. They are just trying to get comfortable with their environment.
We sometimes have the instinct to make them stop. The pacing and exploring can be a little uncomfortable for others in the room. Kids can intrude on others’ space very easily. They can get into your bubble fast.
After a while this typically dies down as the child becomes more familiar with the surroundings and is comfortable with the situation.
I always enjoy when I assist with other kids with autism. I get to see how “normal” my child is compared to others on the spectrum. I also like when parents came to me and tell me that Konner sounds just like their kids. It helps me understand that I'm not alone.