January 30, 2015

My Adult Stims

Autistic children often have very noticeable stims - kids aren't known for being discrete or hiding aspects of themselves. I think all kids pick their noses or scratch their butts in public without a care in the world. It's not until we bring it to their attention that this is not how we behave in public that they start to police their own behaviour, and each society has different norms about what is acceptable.

So with Autistic kids, the only difference is that some of their actions or behaviours are different from NT children, but over time they too can often find "acceptable" outlets. Of course, what is acceptable to one is not to another. I also believe that stims have a purpose, so my philosophy is very simple: if it doesn't harm another person or themselves, it is acceptable. 
(Of course, we can also get into a debate about what constitutes as "harm" but let's keep it simple for today)

All this to say, I had a lot of stims as a child that I grew out of or found socially acceptable methods to carry them out without attracting attention. Because until society changes, Autistic people have to go into stealth mode in order to either not attract attention or become victims of violence. That is just a fact about the way the world is today. If you don't like it, help me change it!

Also, people seem to have this perception that if one does not "look or act" Autistic (whatever that means!) then the person is "cured." I don't think people can be cured of autism, we just find better ways of masking ourselves to fit in.  So I wanted to bring awareness to some of my adult behaviour, or ways I can go "hidden" or at least, not so visible on the radar in order to be productive in the outside world and keep myself safe.

-I do still flap on occasion. I have to be either really happy or angry. I don't even notice I'm doing it until someone else points it out (usually by laughing at me).

-I hum/sing the same part of a song over and over again or make bizarre noises with my throat. This annoys my husband, so I try to reserve this for when I'm alone, but it does still come out now and then.

-Listening to loud music - to lose myself or just really enjoy. Often while alone in my car.

-I curl myself up into a ball and rock. (Again, this is usually a "in the comfort of home" thing, but I have found myself doing it at parties, which gets me stared at)

-I bite my nails. Not a great habit, but one that a person can do anywhere and not be looked down upon too much.

-I chew gum. Again, not everyone likes gum chewers, but still socially acceptable enough in most places. I'm not loud about it, but I need to do it for stimulation. I usually chew gum while driving or during my afternoon slump at work.

-I have some tics or twitches, where I crack my neck or wrists.

-I wear fidget rings. Days I've forgotten to wear them to work result in anxiety attacks, so this is another *must* stim for me.

If you'll notice, adult stims are pretty innocuous and even NTs do them, but I think the difference for me is that they are very important to my well-being and capability to deal with life. I know that not being able to stim results in high anxiety for me. So reducing or controlling a stim would come at a high cost.

So even if an adult Autistic does not "look" like they are struggling or stimming, it's often just that we've found alternative ways to hide it and keep going. There are severe consequences for those who don't - loss of job, threats of violence from strangers, just to name a few.

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