KJ Hannah Greenberg


When I was a young professor, I had trouble remembering students’ names. To boot, although I was equally proficient in math and language, I veered toward rhetoric, not topology, because I habitually misplaced decimals.

A decade after helming college classrooms, I was fortunate to become a parent. Nurturing my wee ones had the expected highs and lows. However, all in all, I never anticipated their medical challenges.

One of my children had a cognitive issue. As a kindergartener, that scion demonstrated their brilliance (we moms are biased), for instance, by offering to calculate the cost of a tank of gas whenever we pulled up to a pump. Yet, in first grade, that small child achieved only middling scores.

Whereas I never tried nor desired to live vicariously through my sons and daughters’ achievements, I was concerned that the offspring in question wasn’t living up to their potential. Many dead ends and multiple medical tests later, we discovered and responded, as best as we could, to that dear one’s Central Auditory Processing Disorder, CAPD, i.e., “auditory dyslexia.”

In the midst of that journey, I was informed that my child’s neurodiversity was hereditary. Wow! Suddenly, it made sense why I, an English professor, had to rely on dictionaries, and, later, on apps to right my misspellings. In addition, I had discovered why names slipped from my mind; it seemed that I, too, had CAPD.

Decades passed. My children had their own children, some of whom were diagnosed and then reevaluated as landing on the autism spectrum or not. When diagnoses were corrected, interventions were put into play. Otherwise, my generations continued to focus on jousting for the “best” piece of pizza or admiring our cats.

Mental health is a funny fish. In my parents’ generation, it “went unnoticed,” insane asylums excepted. In my formative years, mental health was somewhat understood but remained a taboo topic. These days, contrariwise and fortunately, mental health is widely discussed. Affective and cognitive differences have lost enough stigma that the newest cohort of parents and professionals freely compare health care providers’ findings as well as unreservedly discuss available pharmaceutical and talk therapies.

Unfortunately, some human variances are still marked out. Stimming is one of them. It:

includes arm or hand-flapping, finger-flicking, rocking, jumping, spinning or twirling, head-banging and complex body movements. It includes the repetitive use of an object, such as flicking a rubber band or twirling a piece of string, or repetitive activities involving the senses (such as repeatedly feeling a particular texture) (National Autistic Society).

Stimming, although seemingly out of the ordinary, is, moreover, a behaviour practiced by populations “who [think and process] information in ways that are [culturally] typical” (“What does neurotypical neurodivergent, and neurodiverse mean?”[sic]). From stress balls to NeeDuh, frazzled people incorporate stereotypy behaviours in their lives to increase satisfaction, manage sensory input, and cope with anxiety (National Autistic Society). After all, self-stimulatory acts are not harmful to their practitioners nor to others.

Whereas finger tapping, humming, and rocking can be generated from within, some reassuring responses are externally sourced. More exactly, both neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals look to music to help relax. Folks who calm themselves might utilize white noise, brown noise, pink noise, natural sounds, soft music, or biaural beats (Mosunic).

White noise is broadband noise, like static. It can be provided by dedicated white noise machines or experienced via “listening” to  the chatter of animals or small children.

Pink noise, like white noise, contains “all the frequencies that humans can hear”(Boynton) but with less intense higher frequencies than white noise. It’s found in the sound of rainfall and ocean waves. Many videos capture this vibration.

Brown noise is found in the boom of thunderstorms and in the swish of running water. Consequently, some persons find dishwashing comforting.

Natural sounds are exemplified by birdsong, cat purrs, and so forth. These reverberations can come from listening to the whirr of a pet or to tapes of jungle birds.

Soft music is exemplified by many classic arrangements as well as by some contemporary concertos. Elevator music is often an example of this sort of sound. Lullabies are another instance of it.

Biaural beats are “an auditory phenomenon that occurs when listening to two different frequencies at once” (Crumpler). They are produced by flowing rivers and other elements of Creation as well as are manufactured in studios.

Whether soothing comes from oneself or elsewhere, it’s found in music. Beyond music, self-pacifying can come from physical movement, or from careful utilization of select objects. Additionally, it’s commonly employed by both conventional and unconventional populations to increase their function and to decease their tension.

Whether someone has a cognitive difference is immaterial to coping with worry. Hopefully, society will continue to increase its acceptance of the array of mental health constellations found in the general public. Viz., it’s beneficial to humanity to further embrace and encourage stimming.


Boynton, Emily. “What is Pink Noise?” “Right as Rain.” UW Medicine. 13 May 2020. Accessed 8 Jul. 2024.

Crumpler, Cheryl. “Do Binaural Beats Have Health Benefits?” Healthline. 28 Mar. 2023. Accessed 8 Jul. 2024.

National Autistic Society. “Stimming—A guide for all audiences” [sic]. Accessed 1 Jul. 2024.

Mosunic, Chris. Reviewed. “These soothing noises may help your ADHD brain get better sleep.” Accessed 1 Jul. 2024.

“What  does neurotypical, neurodivergent, and neurodiverse mean?” [sic]. Medical New Today. 4 Feb. 2022. Accessed 9 Jul. 2024.

About the Author
KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Thereafter, her writing has been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than forty books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.
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