This is a special blog post on behalf of Autism Acceptance & Autistic Appreciation Month.
I’m autistic. Openly autistic and proud. Yes, like anyone else I have my good days and I have my bad days. However, over the years of therapies and a lot of hard work, I learned how to mask in a neurotypical world. My stimming made people look down on me.
I discovered Unmasking Autism when I was 19 years old and it taught me about true authenticity and to let loose (within reason of course). No, I didn’t “play up” to anything. Yes, I got questions like “You never used to be like this why now?”
“Stop doing that, this person is giving you a look! That person just gave you a look!”
“Stop playing up to your autism! You’re doing this for attention!”
I found as I got older my struggles became worse so it became important for me to learn HOW to make my stims work for me when I’m at work, in public, at a restaurant, and even on the bus.
What is Stimming?
Stimming is a self-stimulatory behaviour that consists of either repetitive sounds or repetitive movements. My stims for example are pacing, hand flapping, self-talking, and listening to the same song or the same part of a song on repeat. Some stims eventually fade but some stims stay with me and they help me and many autistic people.
We All Stim
When we think about it, we all stim. When we dance, we’re stimming and if we tap our feet or snap our fingers we’re technically stimming.
How Stimming has Helped Me
VOCAL STIMMING: This has helped me in public, ESPECIALLY when I have gone for late-night walks because people don’t disturb me because they think I’m talking to someone else. In public, I will do this by pretending to talk on my phone. Sometimes, I don’t realize or know when I do this unless someone points it out to me. This stim has helped me to stay safe when in public. I’ve had this stim since I was a kid.
PACING: This is my MOST misunderstood stim. Pay attention to the pace, if I pace slowly it’s because I am carefully checking out my surroundings ESPECIALLY if it’s somewhere new or somewhere that I haven’t been before. If I pace heavily, this is usually because either I’m about to head into a meltdown OR because I feel overwhelmed. This stim has helped calm me when overwhelmed and is very self-soothing. Please don’t stop me from pacing, instead, just ask or give me space.
HAND FLAPPING: This stim is something that I discovered when learning to unmask as an autistic person because it calms me and it works for me to get whatever I’m feeling out of my system.
Overall, stimming has helped me self-regulate and this is crucial. Stimming has also helped me to recharge when I need it most.
Ask Without Judgment
Neurotypicals can help by not being judgemental and by ASKING the why WITHOUT judgement.
For me, if someone asks me I usually answer. Neurotypical individuals can also help by letting people like me stim peacefully, defending us when people make rude comments, and simply being a safe person we can unmask around.
If you want to stim with us too, just do it.
I am 31 years old and I’m from Courtice, ON Canada. I am an autistic person and graduated college from the Early Childhood Education Program. I’m studying Russian and hope to visit Russia when it becomes safe again. My hobbies include going to the gym, running weightlifting, reading, swimming, yoga, hiking, meditation, knitting, cooking, and learning new things. I also love traveling and I am a huge cat person.