FAQ: Neurodiversity

I’m anxious/depressed/mentally ill/disabled/allistic. Is my stimming valid?

I’m not here to police who can or can’t stim, or who can or can’t use the words “stimming” and “stim”. The last thing I want to be is any kind of gatekeeper for the community. If you feel the words apply to you, then congratulations, you stim!

My general belief is that stimming as a need indicates disability or neurodiversity in some way, and if you relate to stimming, that might be something you can (but do not have to) consider exploring. Plenty of people who stim and need to stim identify as neurotypical, though, often from misunderstanding of what constitutes neurodiversity, a lack of information, being undiagnosed, or the pressures of ableism and the need to perform neurotypical behaviours.

If neurotypical-identifying folk feel the need to describe their stimming as stimming, though, I have no problem with that, if they engage respectfully with the ND communities and work to understand stimming as ND expression and culture. This isn’t a necessarily a community-wide approach, and I am not talking for the ND community as a whole, but I find this works for this blog.

(We are currently dealing with the erasure that comes from stim toys as the current fashion: sellers and buyers of toys that are designed for us treating us as a secondary part of the market. It is vital that NT stimmers understand this situation and that many ND folks, myself included, feel frustrated and alienated by this experience of seeing our aids and tools discussed by NTs without bothering to more than cursorily name-drop us in the conversation.)

I have chosen to focus this blog on the needs and experiences of neurodiverse and disabled stimmers. Neurotypical-and-able-bodied stimmers are welcome to follow, reblog and provide data-point information like sales and resources, but I ask that they don’t submit reviews or reblog to add their own discussions on posts (for example, like an OT talking about how a Tangle works for their patients). This isn’t a statement of validity; it’s simply how, as a neurodiverse and disabled person, I’ve chosen to direct this blog and the community growing around it.

Please note that I do not ever need to know just how you are disabled or neurodiverse. I will not at any point in time question this or attempt to gatekeep someone from participation. You do not need to share this or justify your involvement. If you only need to stim to manage anxiety in a doctor’s office and never at any other time, you’re as valid in this space as someone who stims non-stop every day.

I’m allistic. Am I appropriating stimming from autistics?

No. Absolutely not! Many people find stimming useful, be it as natural movement, a means of focus, an outlet for energy or a way of managing anxiety. Since stimming (fidgeting as a type or subset of stimming) has been repressed and discouraged for so long by neurotypicals, especially neurotypical and allistic professionals, we don’t know how many people might find stimming engaging, important or useful.

Unfortunately, allistic teachers and psychologists tend to make ableist comments that suggest or state outright that allistic ND folks (especially anxious folks) can’t stim or are appropriating stimming from autistics. As an autistic stimmer, I find this incredibly offensive, as anxious stimmers help make a world where it is safer for me to stim without dealing with questions, explanations or professionals seeking to deny me access to stimming and stim toys. (I’m an adult autistic and I’ve still had a physiotherapist offer to teach me how not to stim, even though it’s something I’m only relearning and rediscovering as an adult.) If they help bear the burden of educating strangers and easing the stigma against stimming, it can only be a good thing.

I have to wonder, and I do, what’s so terrible about a behaviour associated with autism – stimming – that allistics are discouraging people with anxiety or ADHD from moving, behaving and expressing like I do. It’s a thousand kinds of ableist and does nothing to help me, as an autistic, but make it less safe to stim.

You are absolutely entitled to use stim toys. You are absolutely entitled to access disability aids that make it easier for you to function. Anyone saying otherwise is preaching gross ableism, using my identity to justify said ableism and is ignorant of the culture in the autistic and wider neurodiverse communities. These people are allistics once again speaking over actually autistic stimmers, and they absolutely do not represent us and should be ignored.

If you need to stim, please stim.

If you want to test stimming out to see if it helps you, please do so.

This autistic very much wants you to stim.

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