(sigh) there's been a lot of negative posts I keep seeing sometimes in completely unrelated tags about stimming isn't for "neurotypicals". It kind of made me feel a little down. I'm very mentally ill, but I also have a lot of traits associated with Sensory Processing Disorder... I don't have the energy to go see if I really do or not... I just want to keep doing what helps me stay sane. I really appreciate your blog, and all of the resources you put out there. Thank you.
Lovely anon, I am sorry for keeping you waiting on this.
I’ve seen a few of those posts myself, with regards to spinners, which are apparently popular right now in the US.
(Not being American - here in Australia handmade slime is just starting to catch on - I can only go by what Americans are posting, which appears to be posts on stores selling out of spinners and discussions about popularity resulting in teachers banning spinners from classrooms.)
I’ll say to you this: You. Are. Not. Neurotypical. Like, neurodiversity isn’t a “if you hit fifty points or more you’re ND” quiz. It isn’t. (I know they can assess autism this way, which was how mine was, but since I came to agree with that assessment through community exploration, I don’t consider it all that worthwhile.) If you have a need for stim toys, if you have mental illness, if you have SPD traits, even if you never get a paper diagnosis, you’re ND, and you’re us. If you’re only ND in one or two aspects, you’re not neurotypical. If your only problem is smell sensitivity and you stim because of that, you are not neurotypical. All you need is some difference that causes disability in some way, for which stim toys are an aid as much as a crutch or chair. You cannot sit still through a class? Here’s an aid that will help you do that. That’s it.
(I am absolutely and unequivocally for self-diagnosis or partial diagnosis or people who are questioning but find they need stimming. I am here for “ND, but not sure exactly how yet” and engaging in the stim community because it is a need that helps them survive. I am absolutely and
not for any kind of gatekeeping that stops ND people, who may not know they’re ND because we’re all forced to mimic neurotypical behaviour, from finding connection, community and support.)
I understand why people are blogging as they are: when something is adopted by the masses, teachers in a classroom setting tend to ban it as a distraction, meaning those who need it (especially those without paper diagnoses or poor support systems in place) no longer have access to it. It’s a problem, a very real problem. Stim toys need to be in ND hands. Having a disability aid turned into a fashion or fad means that disabled people have to find alternatives and run the risk of even those alternatives not being accepted.
But. We need to discuss this problem in ways that don’t alienate or exclude people who think themselves NT who are exploring popular stim toys and discover they need these toys as much as we do. We need to remember that ableism teaches us to act as NT as possible, so much so that we repress our differences in thought and feeling, so much so that we lose stimming. (I know I did.) We need to remember that autism (as one case example) is often diagnosed late in people who aren’t white and cis masculine, and some of those annoying NT stimmers who have appropriated the toy might actually need it themselves.
I’m wary, as I’ve said before, of outright statements like “stimming isn’t for neurotypicals”. I’m wary because I’m late diagnosed, because I didn’t even get a depression or GAD diagnosis after I was twenty despite having been the most anxious person ever my whole childhood, because I know that a great many ND people can spend years of their life not knowing they are ND. Because society teaches us to bury, as best we can, our neurodiversity. I’m wary because I think it doesn’t give ND people who don’t know they’re ND entry into the community they need.
In a way, I think it’s a dreadful catch twenty-two: the problem is born of ableism (an aid turned into a fad), but the dialogue about it doesn’t take into account how ableism stops people knowing themselves.
I don’t know, not really, what is the best way to approach this conversation.
All I can say is that if you need to stim, given that I consider that need a sign of neurodiversity in some way, you’re welcome here. You don’t need to tell me how you’re neurodiverse, because I don’t care. You don’t have to fully know yourself - all you need to know is what you’ve said, that stim toys are an aid. This space is for you. Stimming is for you. You absolutely belong here, anon.
(And general reminder that “neurotypical” doesn’t equal “not-autistic”, and allistic neurodiverse folk who stim are valid, wonderful and absolutely belong in the stim community.)