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What is your autistic stim?

What is your autistic stim?

  • Rocking

    Votes: 6 12.5%
  • Hand flapping

    Votes: 4 8.3%
  • Bouncing, jumping, or twirling

    Votes: 3 6.3%
  • Swaying side to side

    Votes: 2 4.2%
  • Licking, rubbing, or stroking a particular object

    Votes: 2 4.2%
  • Repeating words/phrases

    Votes: 5 10.4%
  • Skin rubbing and/or scratching

    Votes: 11 22.9%
  • Rearranging objects

    Votes: 2 4.2%
  • Staring at lights or rotating objects

    Votes: 1 2.1%
  • Other

    Votes: 12 25.0%

  • Total voters


Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
There was a thread a few weeks ago about stimming that I haven't been able to stop thinking about. I wondered what makes a stim an autistic stim versus a normal, everyday one? Articles I've read about it all point out that almost everyone stims, not just autistic people. Toe tapping, twirling hair, biting nails, bouncing leg, etc.--these are common ones. But I've noticed that many autistic people, myself included, tend to view everything we do and everything about us as being the result of autism. But of course this isn't the case. We are autistic, but we are also people--we're people who happen to be autistic. So, then, in addition to autistic stimming (and keep in mind that not all autistic people stim), we must also stim in ways that are not the result of autism. But how do we distinguish?

Here's what I've found: autistic stimming differs from normal stimming in type, quantity, and obviousness of the behavior (I pulled this from verywellhealth.com). If your stimming goes beyond what is "culturally tolerated," then it is an autistic stim. "Mild and occasional rocking is usually acceptable, but rocking one's entire body back and forth is considered to be [an autistic] stim" (more from verywellhealth.com). Twirling your hair is acceptable...but when you can't stop doing it, when you do it more than is considered normal, when you do it over and over when you're happy, excited, stressed out, or sad, then it's an autistic stim.

But autistic stims also tend to be unusual to begin with. Rocking your body side to side or forward and backward isn't something non-autistic people do. Flapping your hands or repeating words/phrases to calm yourself isn't normal. Swaying side to side while standing is unusual. And in fact, one of the earliest and most obvious signs of autism in children is stimming in ways that really stand out as abnormal.

So, that's what I've found. And I'm curious what everyone's autistic stims are and even what your non-autistic stims are. Mine: I've rocked since I was a baby. Nowadays I rock backward and forward. I do it every day, but when I'm stressed or upset, I do it a lot more (maybe two or more hours cumulative per day if I'm really upset about something).
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I usually rock back and forth in a chair or on the couch. I do it the most when I'm listening to music, I've found it helps me to immerse in it even more.

I've done it since I was a kid, it used to be a nervous thing, but for the past several years it's just been more of an almost involuntary thing.

I don't do it whenever other people are in the room though, even people I know.
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Suppose then it's my jumping, dancing and twirling. As it used to make my bio. family annoyed. Yet the hair twirling where you actually pull some of your hair out daily, or rocking, or leg jiggling was considered acceptable inside the home when my siblings did it. Being somewhat hyper-active led to dancing, cartwheels and taekwondo kicks and punches, as it does to this day.
I tend to repeat nonsense words or phrases over and over again. I also pace a lot. I used to do the rocking back and forth thing but I stopped.
I will pace up and down and my father use to call it stomping.i also play and twirl with my hair and I also will sometimes rock back and forth, I also repeat words or things I already said before.
hard to choose just one..i kick my legs, clap, pull my hair and chew my lips but not all at the same time.
i also speak dialog along with commercials and movies, but that isnt a stim, just sort of fun.
I have a spin ring and a rubber noodle! And it's hard to stop biting my tongue. There are probably others but they're so integrated into my life that they're hard to think of off the top of my head.
I rock back and forth a lot. If I'm sitting, I'm usually rocking at least to some extent. I also have a few things I do with my hands. One of them is that I'll kind of flick my wrist repeatedly. When I'm lying on my bed reading or something, I sometimes raise one arm halfway up and tense my hand as I lower it (poor description, but it's the best I can come up with). When I'm particularly excited, I involuntarily start to flap my left hand (for some reason, all my hand stims are with my left hand). Sometimes I'll hum a particular tune ("Up on the Housetop," "Camptown Races," and several songs that are just practice songs from when I took piano lessons are among my usual rotation - usually it's something fairly quick and repetitive) or speak nonsense. I sometimes will touch each tooth individually with the tip of my tongue or touch the tips of each fingernail separately to the tip of my thumb (it really bothers me if I'm interrupted mid-cycle with either of these, I feel I have to complete the round). When I lie down to sleep, I have a very hard time keeping my feet still - I sort of rub them together, and it's very annoying because the motion keeps me awake and I have to find a very specific position to stop doing it. Recently I've also started bouncing my leg a good bit, but my NT family members also do that sometimes.

Wow, I have a lot:eek:
Trying to figure out which item in the poll is closest to “fidgeting” - like spinners, pens, keys, coins, or - in my case - straws.
If I can't move my hands or feet; be it self imposed or otherwise,
I might retreat into my brain.
words, phrases, lyrics, scripts, acronyms, ditties, rhymes, pieces of classical music.
It's a shame multiple votes aren't allowed in the poll, because most people have more than one stim. Mine since childhood is feeling and stroking my hair. I don't think it's the stim itself that particularly relates to autism, but the reason or manner of doing it. For example, I feel my hair in order to get a specific sensation, I like the feel of the hair, and I seek it out, particularly when stressed. I can't help doing it. I have other ones too - I pace, but so do a lot of people. I seem to do it a lot more than most people, I also rub my hands together. or even flap them when excited. So do other people, NT and autistic people alike, but NTs tend to be very sociallly aware and are more likely to control or stop so as not to draw negative attention to themselves, they do it less in public, but I feel like I don't have this social awareness and stim a lot in public, too. Of course, I can only speak for myself here, for others it might be different.
I have more than one also.
I picked skin rubbing/scratching and lip biting I guess could all go under that.
If I have to sit still I find I do those things a lot. Especially rubbing my face/chin.

All of my life I've loved to rock in rocking chairs. Although I will do it to a certain degree in other
chairs like my computer chair, if the chair has a little give to it for movement.

I tend to sway side to side when standing in place.

Also, especially when tense, I clasp my fingers together really tight and move them around.
Mostly when sitting. I rub my right forefinger against the inside of my right thumbnail edge
almost constantly. Can't stop it. The edge of the skin around the nail there is thickened compared to
the rest of my nails.
If I can't move my hands or feet; be it self imposed or otherwise,
I might retreat into my brain.
words, phrases, lyrics, scripts, acronyms, ditties, rhymes, pieces of classical music.

I do that, too. Looking for patterns in the numbers on license plates, trying to make anagrams out of words on billboards, counting things, memorizing or reciting things. I always have a light math problem to think about.

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