7 year-old-girl intense "stims" - Nothing fits!

by Davis
(Bothell, WA)

For the past 4-5 years I have researched and sought out help in diagnosing the behavior my now seven-year-old daughter displays. We have visited multiple doctors and researched conditions along the lines of SPD, ASD, ADD/ADHD and even OCD. Nothing fits.


My otherwise usual functioning child (who seems happy, social, loving, outgoing, and only slightly below average academically), exhibits a behavior I describe as "her intensity." On a daily basis, my daughter gets very excited and tenses the muscles in her arms, neck, face and most apparently down to her wrists and fingers. She then makes tight fists or awkward positions with her fingers and then rotates her wrists in a sort of "stimming" fashion. When she does this her face become tightly contorted and her mouth is usually open, her breath held. She will do this anywhere from once to several dozen times each day.

Has anyone else seen this behavior in their children (apart from other accompanying symptoms of the SPD/ASD conditions), and if so, have you been able to get an identifier or diagnosis for the behavior?

Since she was 3, doctors have advised that she will hopefully grow out of the behavior, although clueless as to what might be going on with her. Although, it has continued to become more and more predominant and seems to have fused its way into her life even more with time. My daughter's teachers have observed the behavior and indicate it has some distracting downfalls in the classroom, mostly for her. It also impacts her extra curricular activities and social relationships. I feel that every couple of months we attempt to chase down answers and then when left with nowhere to turn, we sadly go back to our daily routines again (which the behavior is very much a part of).

Hoping reaching out on this site may provide some new avenues for us to try down. We just want to do whatever we can to help our little girl. Any ideas are welcome!

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Nov 07, 2016
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Tensing of face and arms
by: Anonymous

My grandson does this as well. He has spd, mild cp in lower body, a shunt, rsp, and minor and major motor skill issues. He was born at 23 weeks and is super smart. Every doctor we have seen (he has several) tells us the same thing. They don't know what it is. He tenses when he gets excited and is stimulated.

I worry it won't go away and as he matures it may be an embarrassment for him. But other than this he is progressing. It seems odd to me that the medical profession cannot identify what this is. His language and eating therapist says that when he does this, tell him quietly "Go easy on your jaw". Or Ease up. Go gentle now.

Things like that since tensing burns a tremendous amount of calories and actually weakens the jaw and bite. Hope this helps.

Aug 09, 2016
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Same boat
by: Anonymous

My six-year old daughter has done this since she was a baby. There are no other concerns with her--she is social, happy and very bright. Her older sister did it as a baby but grew out of it around 2.

Happens when she is excited or when she is proud of something she has just done. Probably happens anywhere from 5-10 times a day on average. She knows she is doing it but says she can't control it.

Jun 13, 2016
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My daughter does the same thing
by: Anonymous

My five year old daughter does the same thing ever since she was a baby I have noticed it when she gets excited. Also her speech becomes very enunciated. I've had her evaluated at two and they said she is normal just has some quirks. I really don't know what to do about it. It is going to become an issue for her when she is in school, I'm afraid she will be teased.

Apr 15, 2016
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My daughter does something similiar
by: Anonymous

When my daughter was in her bouncer (that young) she would tighten her fists and spin them around. We thought it was extremely cute. She is now 4 1/2 years old and has since we can even remember done what we call "dangling". She will take her mermaid, and dangle its tail JUST above something while the rest of her body tightens up and her free hand clenches her fist and spins around.

She responds to requests and it does not affect her health as far as we can tell. We are going to be bringing her to a specialist in the next week or so to try and figure out how to approach this. She is extremely smart, friendly, loud, outgoing and very strong willed. Everything points to stimming but the only thing that i have not seen in common is the dangling of things (necklaces, her mermaid etc.)

If anyone has seen this type of behavior or has some insight i would greatly appreciate it. If we get a diagnosis i will also reply back to let people know as well.

Mar 02, 2016
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How I Stopped These Behaviors at 26 Years Old.
by: Anonymous

Hi Everyone,

I'm 26 years old and have been displaying many of the behaviors mentioned in this thread for as long as I can remember. I have always been a top performer academically, socially and in the workplace. I do have a younger brother with ASD who displays similar behaviors when he stims to self-regulate.

I would like to quickly profess that in all my hears living with these behaviors, they do not cause me physical pain and I can control when and where I enter my "blissful state of trance".

Evidently, these behaviors are not wholly uncommon in children. I vividly recall having a peer member who would share in these ritualistic behaviors with me, as a child. Whether that individual carried these traits with them all these years later, I'm unsure.


It seems for many of you parents, you might just come to find your child has stopped these behaviors all together, one day. In the event that it does persist, I'll offer some additional remarks regarding my experiences below.

To begin, I am certain that these symptoms alone are nothing to be overly-concerned with. You may be pondering over questions like "What is it called? What causes it? Is it harmful? Can it be treated?" and so on...I certainly was.

To this day, I have yet to seek out a professional diagnosis. Had I done so, I suspect the conclusions drawn would resemble the conclusions mentioned here. Basically, "We don't know for sure, but perhaps you should try this medication..."

To address the first question, "What is it?" I reply with- A HABIT. For a greater part of the last year, I took the initiative to gain a greater level of control over my body in a variety of ways. This includes:

-Proper nutrition (whole foods, nothing processed, minimal sugar and refined carbs)

-Proper exercise (workout 5-7 days, mixture of cardio and weightlifting)

-Proper sleep (8 hours-I know that sounds like a lot but I want my body to have what it wants)

***AND***

-Practicing Meditation- this may be the most controversial topic of the mix, BUT it proved absolutely essential in increasing my overall awareness of my thoughts.

Thanks to my poorly structured science experiment, I was able to go from roughly 100 simulations daily to 0, but cannot deduce which lifestyle change put the "nail in the coffin."

If any of you have ever quit smoking after years of addiction -I have- I would offer this as a point of reference. In order to break a habit and expect to win over the addiction, requires a shift in identity. I had to decide it was in-congruent with who I aim to be.

What was most debilitating was the amount of time I expended daily going into the most blissful state of trance and how it took away from valuable minutes I could be making progress with something "real". Next, I had to become aware of the stimulants that would trigger the repetitive thoughts which led to showcasing these behaviors. For me, this was anytime I changed scenes from a public setting to a private one. Literally, anytime I was alone I would fall into these patterns of behavior.

As with any habitual behavior, you have to want to change, realize that you actually can change and that it's not a lifelong ailment, then begin making small changes and experiencing the sense of achievement one would as you gain momentum.

Alright, I don't want to extend this post beyond the length of a college thesis, so I'll close on this note - PLEASE DON'T FORCE MEDICATION ON YOUR CHILD SOLELY ON THE BASIS OF THESE BEHAVIORS AND BECAUSE YOU'RE AFRAID. Knowing how much control I have over it nowadays, I would have beaten my parents senseless if they had force-fed me med's (I know, pleasant right?)

If you're a fellow adult-you can break it like you break any other habit. Although I must admit, it takes time getting used to all the additional minutes in your day that suddenly reappear. :)

I'll return to this thread in the future do see if there are any further questions or areas I can expand on or shed some light on. For now, I hope this helped to at least calm your nerves and accept your child as he/she escapes reality in some strange, autistic-like fashion :)

Jan 21, 2015
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My son now does it too
by: Davis

My daughter is now 10, and the intense "stims" never stopped. We haven't had her on ADD Meds now for about 9 months. We stopped when school let out and didn't really see a difference in behavior or learning.

My son is now seven years old, and this year he has now picked up the same intense behaviorisms. He has actually been a kid who "flaps," interestingly, but I think we just felt he liked to jump and do this when he was excited but thought it would be temporary. He has done this for the past couple years now.

When excited he jumps, even in his seat. He'll bounce in a seated position on the couch if we tell him not to jump. If he jumps though, he holds his elbows close to body and his wrists are sort of limp and "flap" near his head.

He was diagnosed with developmental delays in fine motor, large motor, and adaptive at 4, and attended a special preschool where he received PT and OT. He's now in 2nd grade and receives OT only for continued fine motor delays. He is definitely behind academically.

When he was in preschool he was the leader in the group - his delays weren't mental like a lot of the other kids, so he really shined with his peers. Now that he's been in a standard environment for the last 2.5 years, he is behind. He hates to write - it's harder for him. He wears glasses with bifocals for strabismus and a very strong astigmatism in one eye, so reading is also a challenge. The thing with him is, he otherwise seems quite well or normally functioning.

He's funny, likable, SO sweet and loving to me, aggressive like a boy, and he has good friends. As part of his IEP eval last year, his IQ was tested for the first time, and it showed what we always felt - he's super smart! (Touches my heart, this boy!) There then became this great concern because of the large gap between where his IQ was vs. his academic level, and that's what his learning support folks are working on now.

Throughout all of this, I never felt a connection between my daughter's intensity and my sons jumping with excitement. And now just last year, he stims in the same intense way. He gets tight his his arms and contorts face, and holds breath. It almost strikes me more like OCD than anything.

Last year his support group suggested he might have ADD as a component to all of this. We were prescribed a med to do as a trial for him. He took it for one day and acted like a major speed freak. It was so sad to see him like that - talking fast and chewing on his lip - so we haven't used it since!

I feel like we'd come to a place of acceptance with my daughter, that'd we'd just never know what was causing her behavior. Now that we see our son following the same path, I again want to understand!

Anyone with similar stories? How have you resolved or uncovered answers?


Jan 21, 2015
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I've got the sweetest flapper
by: Anonymous

My daughter stims as well. She flaps. When she was younger she would to it higher up on her body like full swings.

Now at 9 she holds her arms close to her body and just her hands shake but all the way up through her arms and shoulder shake as well. Her mouth drops open and her breath increases like she's exercising or very very excited. Triggers are all over the place. But, computers, a new exciting thing, a really fun part in her favorite show, even being cold (a real reason to shake) gets her going.

On a real intense day I would say she flaps 100-200 times. She has been recently given a diagnosis of ADHD -- my Pediatrician recommended a Behavioral therapist I have her seeing someone but they aren't acquainted with the sensory issue. We are also going to contact an Occupational Therapist see if we can get a better understanding.

Good luck to all I feel so crazy when everything I look up mentions Autism or being on the Autism spectrum -- yet my daughter doesn't match up with that diagnosis. Normal social situations. Affectionate and happy. Emotional -- some learning issues but for the most part they are able to be worked through.

Sep 06, 2014
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My son too!
by: Cassie

Hello, I am reaching out to you as my 6 year old son performs the exact same "thing" you're describing. We call it is his "excited face" as has made it since he was a baby when he was obviously interested in something.

Mar 16, 2014
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Mouth and neck freezes
by: Anonymous

I have noticed my 7 yr old daughter has had a few occasions first thing in the morning and at bedtime when she is unable to speak or control her mouth and neck movements. She has described it as feeling fuzzy and can't move or feel her tongue. I am concerned and will try and seek answers.

Jan 16, 2014
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No luck so far
by: Davis

No, unfortunately not. She started ADD medication about six mos ago. I still don't think that's what it is. Any luck for you?

Jan 16, 2014
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by: Anonymous

My daughter does the same thing. Have you figured out what it is yet?

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