AbstractIn the symptomatology of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), the practice of “odd, unusual, or repetitive behaviors” such as hand flapping and body rocking is referred to as stimming (Hammel and Hourigan 2013: 75). Stimming is routinely cast as problematic and targeted for reduction or elimination in therapeutic modalities for autistic individuals, including music therapy. In an alternate frame of reference grounded in the epistemological foundations of neurodiversity, however, stimming is subject to a very different kind of interpretation in which such behaviours are embraced as productive, communicative, pleasurable and even socially valuable for those who perform them—as manifestations of difference, not symptoms of deficit. This mode of interpretation forms the basis of the present article, which highlights the words and views of a 10-year-old girl on the autism spectrum who plays music and stims, and which more broadly draws upon theoretical and methodological premises of ethnomusicology to advance a neurodiverse perspective on autism.
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