“Because stimming is what we do.”
July 22, 2016 6:46 AM   Subscribe

In the Daily Dot, Jaya Saxena profiles Stimtastic, a company that sells jewelry and toys for adults with autism who engage in stimming, or self-stimulatory behavior. People with autism are often encouraged to suppress these behaviors, which include rocking, hand-flapping, and humming, among many, many other things. Stimtastic's products do the opposite: they provide opportunities to stim. Founder Cynthia Kim, who also runs the blog Musings of an Aspie, says that “[m]y goal for Stimtastic and for the products we sell is to help adults and teens who stim feel not just comfortable but celebrated.” posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious (41 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
Speaking as a chronic fidgeter, what's the difference between stimming and fidgeting? Or is this just the euphemism treadmill at work again?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:59 AM on July 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Faint of Butt, you should check out the last link there. There is a very big difference.
posted by strixus at 7:03 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


You're assuming I'm not on the spectrum myself, and that I don't already agree with everything posted in the last link. I still don't see the difference.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:06 AM on July 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'd say there's a fidget - stim spectrum. I'm a fidgeter too; I can stop if I have to. People I know who stim sometimes can't stop themselves, even if it's harmful.

Of course most of the time it isn't harming the people who do it, or anyone else, and people should be able to stim all they want.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:07 AM on July 22, 2016


Also I think stimming can be more large-scale behavior? Like maybe fidgeting is a sub-set of behaviors that are stimming?
posted by allthinky at 7:09 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think that's what's genius about these: instead of encouraging people to curb their behavior, it's just channeling it into more innocuous expressions.

While I agree that people ought to be able to do whatever doesn't harm others, some stimming (hand-flapping and rocking especially) can appear very erratic to those unfamiliar with the behaviors. While education can help put others at ease, to a certain degree, it has to be acknowledged that this can make others feel uncomfortable, much in the same way as standing too close can.

Social interaction in general is a delicate dance and a constant negotiation, so I love this line of jewelry because it both navigates the negotiation beautifully, and additionally provides a potential icebreaker into the conversation that may need to happen.
posted by explosion at 7:12 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I fidget. My son stims. What's the difference? I'm at least somewhat aware of what I'm doing and at some point in my life I've made some decisions about what kinds of things are or are not acceptable for my body to do. I might twitch or snap my fingers or make fists with my toes or grind my teeth. My son spins in circles while he speaks. My son hums to himself almost every minute of every day. Can he stop? Doesn't seem like it. We say, "you're humming, could you please stop." It doesn't work. It can get irritating but I definitely get a sense from him that he needs these behaviors and so we have to try and work with him and accept that we're going to hear the Star Wars theme hummed around us for most of any given day. So. yeah, I guess it's a spectrum.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:15 AM on July 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


The technical term for such a device in my neck of the words is: 'plinky-plonk'. As in 'I gotta have my plinky-plonk'. I think this is an excellent project.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 7:32 AM on July 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Infinite Bubble Wrap iPhone Case? Sign me up.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:32 AM on July 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I stimmed as a kid, and I fidget as an adult. I think that sometimes, fidgeting is just socially acceptable stimming. I'm now able to control that impulse and channel it into things that don't make me seem deeply, deeply weird, but I didn't gain that ability until I was a teenager.

(I don't have autism, but I have been diagnosed with some autism-adjacent stuff: ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:38 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love the spinny rings so much. The little "shiiiing" sound they make is so pretty, when you get them going fast. I wish I could bear to wear one, but ugh, things touching my fingers just sets off all the "this will get stuck and never come off" fears.

Do they have something for the, "You're talking to me and it's really hard to concentrate because your face is moving so let me pace around the room straightening things so I can listen without looking at you" feeling?
posted by mittens at 7:45 AM on July 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


I don't know if it counts as "stimming" but I used to pick at my nails and acne obsessively. Learned to get that under control eventually but it wasn't easy, and the scarring never lets me forget it. That's probably of a piece with my ADD, which I had been learning to manage in the context of a life with a supportive family but have been losing control of again since my life situation abruptly went into freefall. Whee, life as a heroin baby rocks! You should try it. People are great.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:49 AM on July 22, 2016


"You're talking to me and it's really hard to concentrate because your face is moving so let me pace around the room straightening things so I can listen without looking at you" feeling?

Intense conversations or movies/TV shows make me get up and straighten/clean at the same time to deal. Or I sort something. Laundry is good for this. I just have to put some space between me and the super intense feelings/my reaction. This is also why I like spoilers/hate jump scares.

Maybe stimmable (quiet) jewelry would make it easier for me to sit through suspenseful/scary movies at the theater again...hmm.
posted by emjaybee at 7:52 AM on July 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


I love the spinny rings so much. The little "shiiiing" sound they make is so pretty, when you get them going fast. I wish I could bear to wear one, but ugh, things touching my fingers just sets off all the "this will get stuck and never come off" fears.

Could you handle a spinny bangle? The instructor of that class takes custom orders.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:53 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


As a lifelong nail biter, I have been searching for cute spinner rings to redirect my attention away from my cuticles. I'm so sad that site is sold out of the dinosaur ring in my size :(
posted by theraflu at 8:50 AM on July 22, 2016


There is a special key ring in the gift shop at the Vancouver Aquarium (but not their online store, looks like). The fob is about the size of a dollar coin, with a smaller disc on top... and you spin it with your thumb... and it spins, and it spins, it spins, it spins, it spins, spins, spins, spins, spinsssssssssssss... it's amazing how long it spins, it's very satisfying, unless you STOPIT but then you can spin it againnnnnnnnnn.

We only bought one, but I made space in the basement and sent email to vanaquashop asking oh PLEASE PLEASE.
posted by Rat Spatula at 9:06 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is fascinating - I'm not on the spectrum (that I'm aware of), so this is a completely new world to me.

And yet, almost everything in the store just looks so...satisfying. I can't even watch the video for the Klixx Fidget too long before it becomes uncomfortable watching someone else use it without having one in front of me to try myself.

I have no idea what, if anything, this means.
posted by anthom at 9:08 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


See also Chewelry for kids. My decidedly not autistic son chews his shirts and constantly had a giant wet ring around his neck until my wife found him a chewable saber tooth necklace. Now he chomps on that all day. I think it's great, and I don't think other kids find it at all strange. It actually looks pretty cool! (Says the completely out-of-touch dad.)

I empathize with people of all stripes who simply don't "grow out" of these behaviors. I wonder if there's anything in this catalog as satisfying as my ancient nail biting habit....
posted by rouftop at 9:14 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm more excited about Stimtastic because, as opposed to Chewelry, the prices are actually reasonable.

Example; example.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:49 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm with you, Faint of Butt. I don't see a bright line between 'fidgeting' and 'stimming' at all. It seems like it's mostly a matter of scale and sometimes specific manifestation.

Why do people tap their feet, drum their fingers, bite their nails, click their pens and chew on the caps, hum and whistle and chew gum? To drown out distractions, to help them focus, for sensory stimulation, or is there some other reason I'm just not thinking of?
posted by ernielundquist at 9:49 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I saw this yesterday and ordered several thIngs (and they shipped same day, very nice). FWIW, I don't have ASD. I do have family members with probable undiagnosed spectrum disorders. I do have some spectrum-ish behaviors - high levels of social/sensory stuff, less of some other things that would be required for an actual diagnosis.

I can, generally, decide when to fidget or not fidget, and how to fidget in socially acceptable ways. Mostly. Except when particularly upset or excited, and then my abilities to avoid upset rocking or happy hand-flapping get fuzzier.

Which is to say, I THINK that I fidget but do not stim. But it's a line that is not entirely clear to me. And I think arguably what I did when I was younger could arguably really be called stimming, but I developed more control over it as I grew up.

Whatever it is, I will now have several new useful shinies to join my existing spinner ring, and I could not be happier.
posted by Stacey at 9:55 AM on July 22, 2016


I'm a fidgeter, and reading the descriptions of how stimming feels ... it doesn't feel that similar to me. I fidget when I have a lot of energy; I'm not necessarily anxious. It's not in response to any kind of sensory overload. It's easy for me to stop, and stopping doesn't cause me distress.

Maybe this isn't true for everyone who fidgets, but for me it seems like a really different experience.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:17 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think fidgeting/stimming lie on a spectrum... just like neurotypes?

Nice to see Jaya on the blue. I miss The Toast.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 10:30 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


(Also still missing the Toast.)

I'm not on the spectrum, nor do I stim (except when I'm switching antidepressants then there's hand flapping and toe pointing) but I do both purposefully and unconsciously chew on the inside of my mouth, which ugh. I have been trying to quit all summer and it's so hard. The purposeful times I'm doing well with being mindful of and stopping, but the unconscious habit is a bitch, so I'm thinking maybe the next step might be to try to transfer that urge to a spinner ring.

I can't use achewy jewelry in my professional life, I don't think, although I do chew gum sometimes in hopes of keeping my teeth distracted.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:52 AM on July 22, 2016


I ordered a set of dice rings while it was still a Kickstarter and they have held up quite well. (They make a great zzzzing sound too, especially the d20)
posted by xedrik at 12:22 PM on July 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Stimming isn't the same thing as fidgeting, though I can accept that they might look similar to the outside observer and that these toys/tools are probably used more often by people who fidget. For one thing, stereotypies start before the age of 3 and remain consistent (though sometimes they subside with time), and there's a limited set of specific behaviors.

Speaking from my own internal experience of stimming (I am on the autistic spectrum), hand-flapping has some kind of strange effect on my brain; it happens automatically when I am engrossed in something or daydreaming and contributes to the entranced feeling, and I see little bursts of light in my mind and sort of lose my sense of connection to the physical world. It's almost like taking some kind of drug that works immediately. I know that description sounds weird but it's the best I can explain. When I was young, I couldn't even sense that I was physically moving, the trance was so strong, though I've developed more self-awareness with age.
posted by thetortoise at 1:17 PM on July 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


For one thing, stereotypies start before the age of 3 and remain consistent (though sometimes they subside with time), and there's a limited set of specific behaviors.
Fascinating. The thing that I do that I consider a stim is something that I started doing when I was really young (although I don't know if it was before I was 3), but I don't know if it's part of the limited set of specific behaviors. I chew my tongue and do something that I refer to as "humming," but it's not really humming. It's making a sort of low, guttural noise that sort of reverberates in my body. It feels really good to do this thing. As a kid, I couldn't control it, and I did it all the time, everywhere. This was *bad*. It was bad when I was a little kid, and it was unspeakable when I was a pre-teen. It's hard to convey how totally unacceptable it is to be an 11-year-old girl who walks around chewing her tongue while making a noise that sounds like an animal dying. And so at some point I figured out how not to do it in public. I still do it when I'm alone, and every once in a while I'll catch myself doing it while walking down the street, and then I feel deep shame and embarrassment. But mostly, I tap my fingers, click my teeth, pull on my lower lip, chew on pens, rub the pad of my index finger against something sharp, stand on one leg... lots of things that probably annoy other people but don't make people literally recoil from me. That stuff is fidgeting: it still feels good, although not as good, but it's socially acceptable.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:47 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


My therapist keeps things like this around on a small side table next to where people sit (but not things to chew on)
It is an immediate copeing with FEELings.

I'm not on the spectrum, but have PTSD. It really helps fulfill a need for me .
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:59 PM on July 22, 2016


Oh, by "limited set," I just mean that there are certain behaviors (like flapping, rocking, toe-walking, chewing, etc.) that show up with greater frequency in kids with autism and other sensory-processing issues, and that fidgety things people do as adults (like how I play with my keys when I'm nervous) are less specific and predictable. ArbitraryAndCapricious, going by my own experience, that sounds like a stim to me.

I still do it when I'm alone, and every once in a while I'll catch myself doing it while walking down the street, and then I feel deep shame and embarrassment.

I always make the same very odd facial expression when I stim and people would constantly point it out when I was a child. I got very self-conscious and now I pretty much only hand-flap and chew my shirts (more often chew beads these days since they're less destructive to clothing) in private and get very startled if someone sees me. It's funny, it wasn't ever a deliberate decision to stop doing those things in public, but the social costs must have been high enough that I changed my behavior unconsciously.
posted by thetortoise at 2:10 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


(Not to derail away from ASD but I can confirm that these guys are great for my ADHD-spectrum fidgeting, by which I mean that when I use them, they prevent me from covering my desk with a fine pile of hamster shavings made from obsessively tearing and rolling whatever paper objects are within my grasp. Also I think this necklace looks super dope and I would totally wear/use it.)
posted by en forme de poire at 3:00 PM on July 22, 2016


Yeah I used to walk on my toes quite a bit around the age of 9 till somewhat older. I probably would have done so earlier in life but we lived in the Frozen North and you just can't do that in snowmobile boots.

I didn't think of it as stimming, I just felt comfortable walking that way. I remember thinking to myself at the age of 9 "nobody else walks like this" and realizing how strange it was that nobody had pulled me up on it yet or demanded to know why I walked on my toes, or "you walk on your to-oes! Nyaah nyaah n-nyaah nyaah!" I still don't know why the normality police let that one go.

I have to say I don't necessarily "get" stimming to the extent of being able to tune out everything else. I bet that only works for people who are best at processing one thing at a time.

Anyway I want a gear necklace. Everything in that store is reasonably priced and cool. These people really get it.
posted by tel3path at 3:24 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


They even have little bags with hooks! To attach to your main bag for constant access! These people just get it.

I love that they have scented vial necklaces, too. That is what the world needs.

I always have a polished rock with me, and I also have a triangular zipper pouch on a keychain, and inside the pouch is a small bottle of hand sanitizer with the lid poking out the top, and there is just enough room in a corner for my polished rock.

A propos, I'm really looking forward to stocking up on little bottles of hand gel in EVERY FRAGRANCE on my next trip Stateside. EVERY FLAVOR hand gel. And the bottles are in triangular shapes. Such happiness. I'm down to my last one which is Meyer Lemon. It smells like heaven.
posted by tel3path at 3:35 PM on July 22, 2016


My ADD partner does a face thing, on top of the compulsive tearing of paper and chewing of nails. He is completely unaware of the face thing but his nephew does it too (nephew has some global disorders with ASD aspects).

I do the toe curling and pointing, and transitioned chewing nails to chewing cuticles. I had to stop wearing bangles because I couldn't stop myself shaking my hand to make them spin (as in, I didn't realise I did it, and even after my partner pleaded with me to stop, the moment I stopped thinking 'hold still' I'd start up again). Tongue biting too. I had some sensory processing issues, and anxiety issues. And permanent callouses along several cuticles from where, even when I manage to not bite them, I rub them.

Mostly I'm gonna buy the chewing stuff for my kid. She's wrecked SO many things. She doesn't chew her clothes but if there is a pen or a scrap of fabric or a toy, CHOMP.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:35 PM on July 22, 2016


We got my daughter one of the necklaces a while back. She stimmed on the clasp and it wouldn't close afterwards.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:01 PM on July 22, 2016


These seem like a cool idea. The chewable-wearables are pretty clever.

Fwiw, I resort to repeated extended growls to block external stuff out sometimes when it's too much, as well as having a few stock "Marge-noises" for everyday use. I don't consider that that's much different to whistling Lillibulero when all's said and done though.
posted by comealongpole at 4:05 PM on July 22, 2016


Sitting here rocking back and forth and squishing my lips together while reading this, because I've got a busy weekend ahead and was getting task overload. The rocking, leg-jiggling, and feet-rubbing I do, the weird faces I make, are things I don't even realize I'm doing most of the time. I also fidget, but stimming for me is a way of powering down when I'm overloaded and fidgeting is when I'm bored and it's not particularly rhythmic or repetitive.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 4:35 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


"You're talking to me and it's really hard to concentrate because your face is moving so let me pace around the room straightening things so I can listen without looking at you" feeling?

Intense conversations or movies/TV shows make me get up and straighten/clean at the same time to deal. Or I sort something. Laundry is good for this. I just have to put some space between me and the super intense feelings/my reaction. This is also why I like spoilers/hate jump scares.

Maybe stimmable (quiet) jewelry would make it easier for me to sit through suspenseful/scary movies at the theater again...hmm.


Wait, hold on: this is a THING? Because it's 100% me.

And uncontrolled, almost uncontrollable, fidgeting has been an issue for me for as long as I can remember: zipper pulls on hoodies, jewelry, sleeve edges, hair -- if my hands aren't doing SOMETHING, I can't pay attention. Also if there's anything I can be reading instead of listening, so having a computer with internet for note-taking is really treacherous. Knitting has really been a godsend for me as a professional.

Sometimes I feel like I should talk to somebody about this. :\
posted by epersonae at 4:38 PM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Has anyone found a good, truly satisfying replacement for compulsive knuckle-cracking? That's the one I just can't quit; for me, it's not just about the cracking sound, but the feeling as well. I know the arthritis link has been disproven, but in times of high stress my hands will actually ache because I can't stop twisting and cracking them.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 7:32 AM on July 23, 2016


I just sent this link to my son, who is a jewelry student on the spectrum. He doesn't really stim, but he cracks his toes.
posted by Biblio at 12:41 PM on July 23, 2016


I had a friend in highschool that was astonishingly good at origami -- like, you could name an animal, and he'd fold you one, and we never managed to stump him, even with requests like 'lobster'. Apparently when he was very small, he was always tearing paper into little bits, so his parents got him an origami book instead. He's a successful architect now, last I heard.
posted by rifflesby at 2:01 PM on July 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


got my ring in the mail
posted by idiopath at 1:56 PM on July 26, 2016


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