Intro to Vocal and Verbal Stimming: No Stupid Questions!

1. What is vocal stimming?

Autistic people use repetitive actions to self-stimulate our senses.

Shortened to “stimming,” self-stimulatory behavior is an often involuntary self-regulation mechanism.

Vocal and verbal stimming are types of stimming behaviors that use our vocal cords and mouths. Vocalizing produces soothing vibrations in our bodies.

Fun Fact: cats purr because the vibrations are physically healing

Since it makes a sound, vocalizing is also auditory stimulation. If we focus on how our mouth feels when it forms the words, we can consider verbalizing an oral stim as well.

2. What “counts” as a vocal stim?

Q: “My child is doing XYZ; is this a vocal stimming behavior?”

A: Any repetitive and self-soothing behavior involving the voice can be a vocal stim! The variations are endless.

Examples of common vocal/verbal stims:


-babbling -talking -chanting

-singing -rapping -screaming

-humming -whispering -squealing

-grunting -moaning -groaning

-laughing -echolalia -palilalia 

-giggling -whooping -hollering

3. What causes vocal and verbal stimming?

Autistic stimming is usually a response to feeling overwhelmed by

  • sensory overstimulation
  • understimulation
  • pain
  • strong emotions (both positive and negative)
  • tangled thoughts

Not only do stimming actions release the pressure of internal energy through movement, but focusing on the sensation is grounding.

It’s not really clear why an autistic person would use vocal stimming over another kind of stim. Each autistic person is unique! We self-stimulate with sensations that are soothing in any given moment. 

4. How is verbal stimming different from vocal stimming?

Verbal stimming is slightly more specific, since “verbal” means “relating to words.” So technically, vocalizations would need to be in word form to count as “verbal.” 

In this article, the two phrases are used interchangeably. 

We differentiate them in greater detail here.

5. Where can I learn more about verbal stimming?

The best place to learn about autistic behaviors is always from autistic people. Resources about stimming written by people who are not autistic just don’t have the same insights.

Autism Parenting Magazine: authors include a mix of professionals and autistic adults.

And Next Comes L: an autistic run resource for parents of autistic children with a focus on the trait hyperlexia.

Clinical Interviews: amplify the voices of actually autistic adults.

More resources: a compilation of materials written by autistic people.

Continue reading related articles about verbal and vocal stimming:

Verbal Stimming vs. Vocal Stimming: What’s the difference?

All About Vocal Stimming for Parents of Autistic Children

8 Great Questions about Verbal and Vocal Stimming

Stimming Behaviors in Autistic Children

And as always, our autistic educators are just a click away from answering all your autism questions.

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