How to Stop Autistic Rocking in Children and Adults - Helpful Tips

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How to Stop Autistic Rocking

There are several approaches to the problem of rocking. Some may be more effective than others for certain people while a combined approach may prove helpful to others. Here are some tips on how to stop autistic rocking:

  • Remove the person from the source of the problem. If large noisy crowds cause a person to start rocking, avoid them as far as possible. If caught in one unexpectedly, look for the quickest way out and guide the autistic person to a quiet place that they will perceive as safe
  • If the rocking is routinely caused by a certain situation such as playtime at school, work on finding a solution. For high functioning autistic individuals, this may be to provide an activity like crossword puzzles where they can sit in a corner and be left alone
  • Physical exertion can relieve the anxiety or agitation that leads to rocking. Take the person for a brisk walk or climb up several sets of stairs. For those able to, riding a bicycle or jumping on a trampoline can also bring the rocking to a halt
  • If the rocking is caused by low levels of anxiety, relaxation and distraction can work well. Take the person to a place where they feel comfortable and play soothing music. Massage is an option if they tolerate physical touch and offer a favorite drink or food
  • Distraction works for some individuals. At the first signs of rocking, bring out an activity they enjoy and do well at. This may be a computer game, a coin collection or something to do with a special interest. Encourage them to busy themselves with it.

Why Autistic People Rock

Rocking is a form of retreat from the world and if the cause can be defined, it makes the problem easier to deal with. Here are some of the things that can cause a person to start rocking:

  • Sensory overload such as loud noise or too many people close by
  • Anxiety
  • An unexpected change in routine
  • Social events or group playtime

Problems caused by Stopping Autistic Rocking

Some experts believe that stimming can be a useful coping strategy for people with autism and even if they are taught to stop rocking, they will adopt another behavior that gives them the escape when they need it. With this in mind, it may be beneficial to suggest a substitute that is not so noticeable. These include actions such as counting fingers, singing or humming.

The public are generally ignorant of stimming and autistic rocking and may think a person is being indulged if they are taken to a quiet room or allowed to leave a crowded area. It is important to ignore any negative comments or advice and do what works best for the autistic person.

If a person is not allowed to rock and a substitute activity has not been worked on, it may result in a complete emotional meltdown. It is far better to allow the rocking if it helps a person to cope, and work on reducing it over a period of time.

There is no simple answer to the question of how to stop autistic rocking. It is generally a multi-faceted approach that takes place over an extended period of time. However, the problem can be reduced or even eliminated with dedicated effort and care.


Asperger’s Syndrome - A Guide for Parents and Professionals, Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1998