The View from Here – On Stimming

Ashna and William are nonspeaking teens here to offer their perspective on stims. Although they wrote their blogs separately, a common theme emerges: everyone stims. Maybe it’s time to adjust our perspective on how we view these actions.

The View From Here – On Stimming

WILLIAM

Only last week I had this fierce argument with my dad over watching Sesame Street. We started watching Stranger Things together, and he was hoping this would replace Sesame Street in my TV lineup.

Don’t get me wrong, that show is freaking awesome. The opening alone gives me chills. But I am constantly at full attention. The beauty of Sesame Street is that I don’t have to be that vigilant. Turning Sesame Street on lets me turn my brain off.

So many of us have stims, but only autistics get shamed for them. The grown ups I know watch trash TV, but this is called a guilty pleasure– not a stim. Some teachers tap their pens or bounce their legs. These are called habits. To stim you apparently need to be autistic.

The purpose of almost any stim is to go outside your current reality for a bit of respite from the wilderness of senses. Until I found out that most people have some sort of stim, I never thought much about why I do it.

Turns out, we all need a distraction from reality once in a while. It’s totally rotten to make stimming a negative thing and much better to think of it as an escape hatch from the world.

ASHNA

Hard to say why stimming starts. Bad feeling? Gap in the scope of the free time? A drift in thoughts that hooks onto a movement or sound?

I know for me, my stims are getting life in place. They allow gathered thoughts to float into file folders of my brain.

The singing wonder Ashna spells and sings simultaneously. Lame songs fill my head and at times come out my mouth, kind of like the stuff I listened to when I was little, even though now I’m into other music.

It’s a game for some people to sing them back to me, but for the most part you should always ignore it. Laughing at my songs a bit helps me feel comfortable, although it has to be friendly laughter.

The thing about stims is that if I interrupt them instead of competing, some awful compulsion grabs my brain and forces me to stim harder. You stim, too, dear neurotypical reader. Tap your fingers? Chew your pen? I’m sure they serve a purpose for you. I really find it annoying that this isn’t called stimming when you do it. Next time you find yourself spinning a coin, ask about an autism diagnosis. At least then, you can own your stims like I do.

_________

William is a fourteen year old guy who communicates by spelling and is navigating the second year of mainstreamed education.

Ashna is a teen in Maryland who cares about doing good talking points for autism and rapid prompting method.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from Reach Every Voice, a nonprofit school with a focus on communication rights for nonspeaking kids and teens. Reproduced with permission from all participants. The original can be found here.

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2 Comments


  1. William, I hope you always get to keep watching Sesame Street for as many years as you like watching it. We all need things that calm us, and Sesame Street calms you, so that’s what counts. I hope your dad learns to understand that this is good for you in its own way.

    For me, watching a nice show while drawing pictures is very calming. I re-watch some of my various favorites, especially ones that have songs.

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