Chen, R. S. Y. & Cekaite, A. (2021). The transformative role of a stimming object in Autistic interaction.

In D. Keifert, K. Gutiérrez, M. H. Goodwin, A. Marin (Chairs), Dignity affirming learning contexts. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Bochum, Germany.

ABSTRACT: Autistic individuals form close, affective, sensorial relationships with objects (Conn, 2015). Many of these objects are involved in the enactment of repetitive movement (e.g. tapping, rocking, flapping), a category of behaviors that diagnostically defines Autism (DSM-5, 2013), otherwise termed stimming by the Autistic community (Kapp, 2013). Whereas autistic object usage is traditionally conceived as rigid and inflexible, especially if involved in stimming (Leekam, 2011), the prevalence of objects in children’s sensory play suggests they may be used more creatively than previously assumed. The propensity to repeat and innovate is prevalent in neurotypical children’s interactions, through playful recyclings of repetitive language (Cekaite, 2004) or locomotor imitation and elaboration (Hoey et al., 2018) as an affective context for play. Embracing the significance of objects in autistic interaction may reveal inventiveness that may otherwise be missed. This line of work has implications for Special Education and the creation of flexible sociomaterial environments that reveal, and thus celebrate the communicative agency of the Autistic student.