Tancredi, S., & Abrahamson, D. (in press). Stimming as thinking: A critical reevaluation of self-stimulatory behavior as an epistemic resource for inclusive education.

In B. de Koning, S. Sepp, & S. Zhang (Eds.), Human movement and learning <Special issue>. Educational Psychology Review.

ABSTRACT: Peripheral sensorimotor stimming activity such as rocking and fidgeting, is widely considered irrelevant to and even distracting from learning. In this critical-pedagogy conceptual paper, we argue that stimming is an intrinsic part of adaptive functioning, interaction, and cognitive dynamics. We submit that when cultural resources build from students’ own sensorimotor dynamics, rather than subjugating them to hegemonic corporeal norms, learners’ intrinsic sensorimotor behaviors may be embraced and empowered as mental activity. This call for transformative inclusive pedagogy is of particular importance for neurodivergent children whose sensorimotor engagements have historically been ostracized as disruptive. Following a conceptual analysis of stimming that builds on a range of neuro-cognitive empirical studies drawing on post-cognitivist embodied cognition theory, we imagine inclusive educational futures that disrupt sedentary instructional design to elevate minoritized learners’ sensorimotor activity. As proof of concept, we present an example inclusive embodied activity, Balance Board Math, a pedagogical tool designed to elicit stimming-as-thinking. We propose a set of design heuristics for realizing stimming’s pedagogical potential.