Acceptable Adult Stimming

As a child, I remember doing a lot of spinning, rocking, foot tapping, and verbal stimming. There were probably other stims that I had as a child, but these are the ones that stick out the most. In adulthood most of these behaviors have dissolved or evolved into more “socially acceptable behaviors”.

These behaviors were often pointed out as “wired” by my peers and punished by my teachers.

Over the years I have evolved and so have my stims. Below are some stims that I have now as an adult.

  • I tap or rock my foot under my desk. The movement is hidden so people do not notice it.
  • I sit on my feet and legs applying deep pressure (often until my legs are asleep and my ankles are bruised).
  • I wiggle my tongue, bite and chew on he inside of my mouth, and scratch at my face.
  • I play with my hair.
  • Twirl and fidget with my wedding ring or any other jewelry that I am wearing.
  • I always have candy or gum in my mouth and enjoy chewing and twirling.
  • Petting a dog in my lap is my favorite form of stimming because it gives my hands something to do AND applies pressure to my legs.
  • My job has me typing on a laptop all day. The rhythmic clicking of my fingers, and scrolling of my mouse is also soothing.
  • I wiggle my toes inside my shoes and strum my fingers / run my thumb across the tops of my fingers in a rhythmic fashion.
  • Sometimes I DO flap my hands when I am excited (but I try not to do it at work and around people I don’t know).

I am sure there are additional stims that I am unaware of, because many of these things are automatic and subconscious.


22 thoughts on “Acceptable Adult Stimming”

  1. This is a great post! My nephew is autistic and he has many of the same stims you had as a child as he is 6 but he has already evolved a lot of them, not out of punishment but out of nature. He has a computer at school and ipads and so on so he has these keyboards and such to help him with his stims. He also likes to play the piano and picked it up very quickly. Moreover, we do not punish like many did for autistic people when you were younger because we and the school have learned better, though that still cannot be said everywhere sadly!

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    1. I love that your nephew has such a supportive environment. A lot of my Stims evolved because I was trying to blend in with the other children. Being singled out left me open to bullying when I was younger. Self preservation because a necessity unfortunately.

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      1. I totally understand. He has developed some from watching others which we have HAD to stop such as a strange sensation to grab around the neck and squeeze and pulling hard at his own face but he’s 6 so these things will stop but I feel so bad for him as he is learning to find other outlets because most of it is frustration for trying to express himself and not knowing how or what to say to get his point across because he has some teachers that do not understand and some adults that do not understand when we are not around. So yes in a way he had some of the issues are are describing. We only prevent the ones that are harmful to himself or others and try to reinforce them with positive ones.

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        1. Honestly, only as an adult in recent years, through learning about AS, have I been able to verbalize certain things. Before reading about / hearing about the descriptions many things, including my sensory sensitivities, were just things I lived with and I never even thought to put them into words. I still have a hard time verbalizing my feelings, and there are a LOT of things that I have a deep understanding of (things that I have spend hours studying) that I just can not articulate well. It is VERY frustrating because I KNOW that I have the information, but being able to verbalize my thoughts is sometimes difficult / impossible if I am put on the spot. Writing has been extremely helpful to me, much more natural than speech.

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          1. I am glad you shared this. I would am learning a lot from you and my other autistic bloggers. I share this information with my brother because he is always studying for his son. We are always trying new things to help keep his world ‘open’ and enjoyable.

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      1. You are welcome I am an advocate for mental, behavorial, and emotional disorders, illnesses, and issues and I love sharing stories especially ones that have bloomed into such an aware and positive one. Your story can help teach others.

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  2. Both my boys have evolved most of their stims, but the hand flapping and tapping is done through music…one plays the electric guitar and one the drums. My daughter whom is eleven is finally doing a violin…as her stims are still highly visible…I love your blog. Such insight. I was never diagnosed…but have mine as well…I used to be the kid always overwhelmed and crying…some things aren’t so bad…but certain notices still drive me up the wall…I use music to drown them out. Looking forward to reading more of your blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment and for reading my blog. Sounds like you have two amazing children. I think the best thing for us AS types is to find something that allows us to utilize our natural gifts. Music is a great outlet. For me, I LOVE typing and creating websites. They are lucky to have someone as supporting and understanding as you are. 🙂

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  3. I can also really empathize with this. I never noticed it before my husband pointed it out, but I just need to fidget the entire time!!
    I play with my rings, I sit with my legs crossed and swing the top one up and down, I scratch my head, wring my hands, rub my nails with my fingers – just lots of fidgeting all the time. I never even associated that with AS! As a child, I used to love spinning round and round until I got dizzy, but I don’t remember anything else.
    My husband is a person who can stay still .. and I don’t get it! I just think that HE is the one who is weird! You mentioned music – I find that interesting as I play violin, piano and sing. Maybe I find those things therapeutic because it’s so absorbing, both physically and mentally that whatever is in my brain making me fidget is silenced and I am free to BE. I would like to add that I am enjoying your blog a lot, I’m finding that so much resonates with me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you SO much for sharing your story and experiences! I think a lot of us grow up feeling like we are strange and unique (not necessarily in a good way) but connecting with other Aspies online has really made me feel as if everything that I thought was “wrong” about me is normal, in the right community. I want more of us to have that “Ah-ha” moment, and the relief that comes with it. Suddenly everything just feels as if it is all going to be okay.

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  4. I do so many of the things you list above. I always chew the inside of my cheek and always have done, I will rock if I’m stressed out and sometimes if I’m out I do it without thinking but try not to as I look crackers! I flap my hands if I’m panicking. I play with my hair when I talk to people which can give the wrong impression…
    Thank you for this post, and your other posts too

    Liked by 1 person

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