Today at the beach I found this old piece of pottery. It’s been worn smooth from the waves and it fits perfectly in my hand. My thumb rub it over and over and over and over -it feels great
My thumbs are major in my stimming, always have been. I think one reason my thumb stims survived the years of stim-suppression I underwent at school and home is that I could stim surreptitiously with my thumbs. It was pretty easy to tuck my hand into the folds of a cardigan sweater and reach for the nubby underside of a button, or to slide my thumbs and fingers quietly along the coolness beneath a school desk. And while I loved to glide my hands across a tree trunk with abandon when no one was watching, I could also quietly pinch a piece of moss-eaten bark between my thumb and forefinger, anytime.
I was told that stims were bad and was really shamed for them at a young age. It’s taken me half a lifetime of learning to realize that they never should have been pathologized. To know that stims should never have been made a big deal of and that, in fact, they've been a helpful way to be grounded and cope in intense sensory situations.
Some of my early stims have been extinguished (such as walking in circles) but many remain in modified form. For example, I don’t tend to jump when I’m happy like I did as a child, but I rock up and down at the knees. And while I flapped when I got excited as a child, I now only flap when I’m very agitated. Now, my hands fly around my head like a flock of birds; it's a way to get settled but also a warning flare. If you see it happening, please give me some space!
For someone my age (40), the idea of stim toys, designed and made by autistics and for sale online, is totally amazing. (Way to win, Neurodiversity Movement!) All my life, I’ve just been grabbing at things that feel good and making use of them.
The closest thing I had to a stimmie toy was a gift from my father’s fishing buddy, who handed it down to me one day like an afterthought. “It’s a worry stone,” he said. I realize now that it was quite intentional, and kind, he gave me that gift. He somehow knew that would be the thing I liked the most – a soft piece of marble with one pointed edge and a silky indentation just perfect for my thumb.
I wasn’t able to thank him, but he was one of those special people who didn’t need a thank you to understand gratitude. We should all feel so comforted, understood and validated for the beautiful forms of comfort we forge from the ordinary.
This piece of pottery is a lot like the worry stone Uncle Scott gave me all those years ago. I’ll use it when I’m thinking hard, especially if I’m communicating or when I’m just relaxing. Claiming it as a stim is part of healing from the abuse and suppression I faced as a kid. Stimming shouldn’t have to be secret. NO ONE has the right to suppress an autistic person from stimming. Our hands were not meant to be quiet. Stim on!