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Childhood favorites are stim toys today

During my 'research' into autism, I was recently checking out #stimtoys on Instagram because that is exactly the platform on which serious research on autism should start. I was scrolling through the tag when I came across the account of a shop that seemed to be specialized in types of objects labeled as 'stim toys.'

What I found was an entirely new world for me. Except, it was not really. For example, the shop featured sand animals which I used to love for their unique texture and the comfortable weight they had all the while being small in size. I remember having several, but I was especially fond of a small green frog that I found in a shopping mall and immediately fell in love with. I still have it to this day. When I was small, I would carry it around with me everywhere I went, holding it between my index and middle fingers and my thumb. I can still feel the little hollow where I used to bury my thumb.

Another memory that I rediscovered on that Instagram page was this sort of glittery wand. The shop simply calls it 'glitter stick,' but I pretended it was a wand. It was a water(?)-filled clear plastic stick; in the liquid, a wild assortment of glittery, metallic plastic particles was floating around. If I didn't pretend to cast spells, I watched the small air bubble in the stick; I specifically enjoyed observing it dig its way through the chunky glitter particles to the top. Another thing that fascinated me was the way the light was filtered and reflected. I would stare at it for hours or just hold it in my hand rubbing my fingertips over the perfectly smooth surface; I'd also take it to school.

Now, here's the thing. While it would be easy to suspect my early fascination with objects that are presently also referred to as stim toys (as opposed to merely toys), I'm not completely buying it for the following reasons:

  1. Many children develop obsessions with certain toys/objects they own. Most of these are not on the spectrum. Often times, what differentiates autistic children from non-autistic children is the intensity and duration of the obsession. However, since I have no way of measuring these two factors retrospectively, I cannot make a statement concerning that.
  2. Who determines when a toy becomes a stim toy? Children who are not on the spectrum could enjoy fidgeting with toys of that sort as well. One way to answer that question could be to examine in what kinds of situations a child will play with the toy and probably also how it handles it in order to reconstruct how it functions for the kid. Also something I cannot look at from the present moment.
So, while the stuff I discovered on that Instagram tag certainly struck a chord with me, I think that fact can only mildly support other arguments or traits of autism I believe to see in myself at best.

As always, I would like to find out about your experiences and thoughts on this topic. Were any of today's stim toys childhood favorites for you? Let me know! Next week, I shall write a post on the holiday season. Stay tuned.


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