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WBUR, Boston: New book "celebrates" hand flapping in autism

Mar 18, 2024, WBUR, Boston: New children’s book ‘Flap Your Hands’ celebrates stimming as expression

People with autism often face a stigma for stimming — a repetitive behavior to regulate emotions that can sometimes look like someone flapping their hands or wiggling their fingers.

The children’s book "Flap Your Hands: A Celebration of Stimming" presents an opposing narrative; stimming is natural and wonderful, taking families through a colorful journey of acceptance and joy.

Here & Now’s Deepa Fernandes speaks with author and illustrator Steve Asbell.

Radio interview with author Steve Asbell.  Asbell is autistic and was diagnosed as an adult.

About his diagnosis: It helped me not only accept who I am, but honestly celebrate who I  am and practice self-care better. . . .

Like a lot of other late diagnosed autistics, I learned to mask behaviors that would be considered not normal, whether due to stigma or internalized pressures where you just pretty much teach yourself not to do the thing that’s going to get you made fun of. . . .

. . .Even if it’s more discrete, there are ways that pretty much anybody can self-regulate in a way that helps them get through the day, helps them deal with emotions, sensory issues. . . .

A lot of kids are taught from early on to, sadly, not stim.

It’s a very personal decision with parents. They’re trying to help their kids adapt to the world and be seen in a way that’s helpful to them, but flapping, rocking, things like that, they actually do serve a function. . . .

What I want to do is show kids not only is it okay to do these things, okay to be the way they are.

It should be celebrated because honestly, I look at stimming as just a beautiful dance between the person and the world at large.  . . .

Interviewer: I feel like you’ve just described your book, which was to me a very beautiful  and joyful, very happy way of allowing kids to be themselves.

I myself have a neurodiverse child, and you want them to be able to be themselves . . .

Asbell also illustrated his book.


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