Autism & Asperger's Syndrome Expert Forum
Hand flapping does NOT mean you are autistic
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Questions in the Autism & Asperger's Syndrome forum are answered by researchers at the New England Center for Children. Topics covered include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Antisocial Personality Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, Autism, blindness, bullying, clinical depression, deafness, dyslexia, mental retardation, and social alienation.

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Hand flapping does NOT mean you are autistic

Hi there,

I just thought I would post this to stop some parents from worrying...

I am a hand flapper and have been since I was a small child but I am NOT autistic or have AS. I am 24 years old and I have very good social skills, many friends, a healthy relationship and a good job. I always excelled in school (straight A's) especially in science and sports and I received a scholarship to attend university. I now work in public relations which involves a huge deal of communication and building relationships with my clients and the media.

It's very strange as I still can't pinpoint why I feel the urge to flap my hands. It seems to be when I am excited or over stimulated. For example, if I have too many good ideas in my head (spiralling thoughts) or am feeling particularly competitive e.g. extremely driven to be the best. I feel as if I am overwhelmed by a built up energy that I need to flap to get out. However, I only flap in private - like in the bathrooms when I am at work - it seems to relieve tension and leaves me buzzing slightly and ready to kick ***! I can flap for about 5-10 seconds up to fifteen times a day (when I'm particularly excited/ tense/ happy).

As it's very strange thing to do as an adult, I am aware that I should never do it in public. Perhaps I am slightly on the autistic spectrum but I possess the necessary social awareness to not do it front of other people.

Funnily enough, my sister has Asperger Syndrome (AS) and does NOT flap. She is a great, extremely intelligent, loving person but lacks the need for social interaction - she's completely happy to be on her own with her collections of books, plants etc. She hates talking to strangers and conveniently forgets to call people back or turn up at social gatherings. It's not her fault - that's just the way she is.

So, don't worry if your child flaps... I didn't turn out too bad for me ;)

Best wishes,

JustMe1986 x
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I appreciate your willingness to share this with the group.  Hand flapping is what we often refer to as "stereotypic behavior", which simply means a repetetive behavior that an observer would say has no apparent function.  The reality is all of us engage in stereotypic behavior--if I am at a meeting at work, and I have a paperclip, I will bend it back and forth repeatedly until it breaks!  When I watch people in meetings, I may see poeple  twirl their hair,  tap their fingers, chew on a pencil, etc.  Most of us are saavy enough not to engage in more severe forms of stereotypy in public, while many individuals with autism spectrum disorders may not understand this, and flap their hands in public.

Again, I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with the group!
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Jason C Bourret, Ph.D., BCBA-DBlank
The New England Center for Children
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