Just keep stimming: A look at my stims

A breakdown is probably long overdue. I’m used to odd, in-person feedback, though, so my stims were kept to myself until situations requiring an explanation arose. I’ve been like, “Eek! Happy stimming!” in chats and “#happystimming” on Twitter before. A friend in the former (via AIM) has asked for details, so I went into it.

The difference is a blog is more of an open space, drawing near even the people who neither understand nor care to.

I’m being lenient with the names of these because I don’t think of them by name. This also requires a lot of self-awareness, and I likely do more than I’m aware of.

Stims should not be confused with tics — I may or may not share those later. Echolalia and palilalia may be tics, but I’ve seen autistics refer to them as stims, so I’m including them as stims.


This is why gum as a nail-biting replacement does not, nor will ever, work. I need the sensory input that comes with biting my nails. I just do. It’s not because I’m hungry or because I’m tired of my long nails (though they do bug me when they get long…), it’s because there is a feeling missing that I need to fill a void for. Biting my nails does that.

Baby carrots sometimes works, but there are only so many in a package…and I’ve found eating a lot makes my tummy hurt. ?

I keep forgetting Stimtastic has a toy for this.

When I’m really upset, I will bite my knuckle or wrist so hard I leave marks. I can’t help it. It’s either I bite or grind my teeth. No other sensory input suffices. I do think when I was around Todd I handled my anger better…perhaps a cat will be a therapy animal in the future? ? (I’ve seen autistics mention having therapy pets in forums because it helps them cope. I’m not that self-aware, but I figured it’s worth noting.)


This sounds dirty, but no.~ I suck my thumb on occasion, or other fingers. Again, I keep forgetting Stimtastic has toys for this.

I also prefer seasoned chips for [mostly] this reason. I need something to suck off. Pocky, honey graham crackers, candy bars — all these suffice, but when I’m not hungry is the problem I face. Sometimes I just sip water from my water bottle; the straw is more handy than I expected. Only downside is I have to pee more than a racehorse. Also, there is a such thing as having too much water, and side effects are not fun at all.

The flavor of pizza

Yeah, I don’t know what to call this one. Something about the sauce and toppings altogether hit my taste buds just right. It’s easy to blame it on it being so good, but it’s more than that for me — from the feeling to the flavor. It remains even if I’m not hungry. It’s more sensory input, but I’m including it as a stim because it’s so relaxing and does what stimming does for me.

Clicking a pen

So annoying, right? But yeah, gotta have the sound. I also need that feeling in my hand. I do it without realising. When I realise, I stop, because it’s so annoying, but until that point, I’m doing quite well 


In television and movies and songs, and even real life. “Echolalia” is the repeating of words or sounds. Some just sound great. For me, it’s the r sounds and ate sounds, like four and eight — but also the ē in three. Oh, and I like the sound of nine. And I like q sounds. And ow sounds. You know what? Let’s just go with all the sounds.

I do this in my head, because doing it with others leads to me having to explain things I don’t have the patience for. I trained myself not to because I wanted to avoid humiliation and expected shame. People also thought I was mocking them because I’d repeat what they said.

Playing music on repeat

I don’t just mean repeat, I mean fifty or more times in a row. Because how great does it sound? Sometimes I will try to find an instrumental version, but one isn’t always available.

I remember saying I once had “Viva la Vida” stuck in my head and someone tweeted back saying, “So? It’s a great song,” like it was no big deal, but just because a stim is relaxing doesn’t mean it can’t annoy you to death. ?

I listen to music mostly in my headphones due to sensory purposes, thus I don’t noticably do it before others.

Which brings us to…


Even worse than having that song stuck in my head, I was humming it over and over and over — the chorus. I was only humming the chorus. Because I liked the sound of it. ??

Sometimes I do it in front of others accidentally.


This is the repetition of sounds made by oneself.

I used to do this in front of others, but now I just do it by myself.

Rocking and swaying

Autistics rock. Literally. Also figuratively.

I rock and sway, and I don’t always realise I’m doing it. It’s just a comfort thing.

I try not to do this in front of other people because they find it weird, and their comments make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. However, since I don’t usually notice I’m doing it, I can’t control when and where I do it.

This is my go-to stim for when I’m sad, nervous and/or worried, but I’ll also do it when I’m content/chill.

Tapping the ends of each finger with the tip of my thumb

I start with the index finger and go to my pinky, then back to my index finger. Repeat.~

I can do this one in front of others easily because to them, I’m merely fidgeting.


I don’t really jump or flap/wring my hands — two major stereotypical behaviors of autistic people — but I’ll run my fingers through my hair, and I’ll twist it…and then I might pull it out. It’s one of the more embarrassing ones, especially since people get onto me for it more (because hair everywhere, because this family “doesn’t have autism”, and because it has resulted in hair on my left side being shorter than that on my right).

“I’m stimming” is not a viable argument in such cases where the autistic is not allowed or supposed to acknowledge the existence of their autism, which I will discuss in a future post.

This is all I can think of right now. If I think of anymore, I’ll update this list, but…this is the gist. ?

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Comments on this post

[…] brunt of the joke, stepping up to kick; I’m the weird new kid with Tourette’s tics and autistic stims, in fourth grade at Thousand Oaks Elementary School, and we’re playing kickball during […]

[…] entire time Mimi talked. It was awkward, and I strongly dislike awkward moments like that one, so I fidgeted with my hands. What else could I do? Would you like to know what he did? He diagnosed me with that, […]

Liz, omg. I’m a little late reading this post and I was very keen to, but this:

When I’m really upset, I will bite my knuckle or wrist so hard I leave marks. I can’t help it.

I had no idea that someone else did this too. Although I don’t have a stim really related to biting, I need to chew on something when I am upset and crying, and it is usually the area near my thumb and forefinger. I bite to leave marks and part of it is the feeling of something between my teeth, the other part of it is feeling a nice pinch on my skin.

I chew and grind my teeth during my sleep, but I don’t know why I do this. I think I do it less, but it has been linked to stress and health problems, and I didn’t find out until there were holes in my plastic retainer that I got after my braces (to keep my teeth in place).

I don’t often use clicky pens. I use ones with lids most of the time. But if I have a clicky one, the clicking definitely gives me so much relief.

Related to palilalia, there are some sounds I make with my mouth that I feel like I need to repeat. One is blowing air through my teeth when my lips are slightly pursed. A more tactile thing I do is move my second and third fingers up and down in opposite directions really fast, which calms me down.