Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dance of the fingers

(This article originally was posted on March 30th, but with so many new people viewing I thought I would share this to make it easier to find.)

At times I will get an uncontrollable urge. The feeling is such that the only way to release the urge is to give into the urge. My body will be in a frenzy up until I give in. No, this urge isn't something evil or involves drinking something, but rather it's a dance, a dance with my fingers.

I have been dancing with the fingers since I was about six years old. I don't know how I got started and the origin isn't important. 21 years of practice and I've gotten rather good at the dance.

As much as I need the dance I am often embarrassed by it. When I do it in public, or around someone else, I often will look around and make sure no one saw me. Often times I can overcome the urge, but sometimes I can't. Rob, who you read about in the "International Event" entry, saw this and the look of confusion on his face was about as priceless as the look of "uh oh, I've been spotted" on my face.

What is this dance? I came up with the "Dance of the fingers" just now as I couldn't come up with anything better. It isn't a new hit dance show on ABC though, but rather is my nifty name for finger flapping.

My dance involves me taking both of my hands and bringing them up to my chin and cheeks. Once this is done, in a rapid fashion, I move all my fingers, except my thumbs which are interlocked inside both hands, up and down.

For me, the dance is a release. What usually precipitates this is when I get excited or happy about something. Sometimes this will occur with what will appear to be zero outside assistance. I could be sitting, alone, with no electronics on just as alone as could be, but if I start thinking about something and get just a bit anxious or excited about something the dance will commence.

The dance may last anywhere from half-a -second to 10 seconds and usually the dance will end with one sudden body jerk or maybe just a single shoulder jerk. It is as close to involuntary as any other movement could be.

To fight it off is to require every ounce of will power in my body. I'm not kidding when I say every ounce! I don't want to be 'caught in the act' because I know it's not something that looks normal. I also don't want to explain it to people because unless you know this feeling my words won't mean anything to you.

I may be able to quell the urge most the time, but there will be times when this dance will be spotted. If done so I can only hope that the other person has viewed this blog because spoken words fail me in situations like that and I quite simply don't want to explain it. So, as one popular pop song says, and I will anytime I get excited or anxious about something, "Just Dance".


  1. I have heard Terrets Syndrome described the same way. Robbie describes it as "a burst of energy or adrenelin (where is the spell check on here).

    Robbie used to have action figures. He had 2 favorite ones because the legs were loose and wobbly. He would carry them around and when he got those 'bursts' he would pull them out from hiding in his pocket and jiggle those things so fast that their legs would do "the dance". He got embarrassed if anyone saw him. At school, during parent teacher conference one time, his teacher relaid that he did this funny thing with his crayons that looked like he was making his crayons wrestle or dance when he thought no one was looking. He never colored with them. I immediately realized he was doing 'the dance' because he was not allowed to bring the action figures to school. One day he just stopped. Just like that. But then the finger chewing started. This is much worse because he has literally disfigured his fingers from finger chewing. He says he chews his fingers so hard to try and control the urge to make them 'dance'. I have never seen him do 'the dance' with his fingers, only the finger chewing. Crazy thing is, he can play his Xbox 360 at the same time as he can chew on those fingers. He just brings the controller up close to his mouth and does both. He also jumps around while he is playing and I am surprised he hasn't bitten a finger or two off!

    Robbie did not learn to write until he was about 10 years old because, in his own words "The teachers would not let me write with my fingers in my mouth while I was writing so I rebelled against writing. When they insisted that he write, it was completely illegible because, again in his words "I was so out of control not having my fingers in my mouth that I could not concentrate or write legibly because my fingers were not in my mouth."

    Robbie has blonde hair, blue eyes, and funny little quirks. We love him exactly the way he is.

  2. you should if you want make the dance like put on dance show and see how it works out like get your hole baddy into it

  3. So is this related to flapping and stimming (self-stimulation)? I would be interested in comparing your "dance" and his. They way you wrote the description it reminded me of how Adam makes fun of the mustache on Jamie in Mythbusters. (

    1. I'd say there is a likeness there, in a way. While his fingers were going outward mine go inward.

  4. In the professional world that I am in, I call this finger dance a stim. You will be surprised that our neurotypical counterparts have their own coping strategies, too.

    At the American Occupational Therapy Association conference last year, for example, I went to see a friend's research presentation. During her 30 minute talk, she played with a thin strip of wire throughout her talk. I sat in the front row, so I saw that. But, I didn't tell her about it because I figured it was a way that she coped with pressure (but she did great overall). In fact, nobody in the audience who came up to her did either.