A friend of a friend was commenting on her son’s spinner, and how “it seems so stupid, but if it helps, whatever!” and i really, really wanted to explain why it helps. because people thinking it’s “stupid” tends to get in the way of those of us who need these types of things being able to use them.
so i finally sat down and wrote this. and i figured i’d share it here, because some of you might not know why stim toys are great and crucial to a lot of people, or other “weird” things like rocking. and others might need a way to explain it to the people around them!
please let me know if you have any ideas about what else to add! here’s what i said to her:
I wish I could articulate what they do and why they help.
Some brains get very jumpy with certain kinds of sensory input – like fluorescent lights, ambient chatter, physically or psychologically uncomfortable settings, random super-loud noises like bells and alarms…
That can make it impossible to focus, to take in information (like what you’re reading or hearing), or create a ton of anxiety and meltdowns.
Certain people, like those of us with ADHD, or who are autistic, or both, have that type of neurology. And the great thing about it is that we also come with the built-in ability to counteract bad sensory input.
We can feed soothing, calming, positive sensory input to our brains to let us focus in jarring environments, or to prevent meltdowns, or to calm anxiety.
Depending on the person, that can come from rocking, from spinning one of these dealies, from humming, from nice textures, from clicking buttons, from chewing things or other sources of light comfortable pressure….
And the reason it works is that, for example with a spinner, it provides a pleasing, continuous, controllable, satisfying pattern and sensation that the brain can use to override all of the overwhelming external stimuli that we often can’t even articulate.
But for people who don’t like a particular stim, or who have a different neurology, it can seem completely baffling!!!
And so the downside is that a lot of us CAN’T use our self-soothing superpowers, because people think we look weird or are just fooling around or, generally, that it’s stupid.
So the more people who can understand that this is actually amazing, the better :D