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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kade Sharp, PhD, LICSW, CMHS, CST, RPT-S

How Do Autistic People Stim?




I wanted to quickly share a list I threw together based on a group consultation question:

Can you give less obvious examples of stimming for adults and children?


This list is in no particular order and some may be obvious to you and less obvious to others (and I may have left off some that I would assume are obvious that aren't necessarily) - but if you're looking to expand your idea of what stimming is and can look like, you're at the right place!


Some of the content below is considered "mature." Some of these stims are considered taboo and can be misunderstood and go un- or under-discussed because of this.


Here's a list of many "less obvious examples" of stimming:


  • Masturbating, sex, certain kinks and fetish play, sticking your hand in your pants or underwear for the proprioceptive pressure of the waistband or compression of the clothing, smoking, vaping, chew/dip, gambling, praying (Hail Mary), chanting, chewing gum, listening to songs on repeat, watching movies or TV episodes on repeat, reading the same books or stories, eating (especially sensory-specific food), lining things up, organizing or sorting things, knocking things over (for the visuals or proprioceptive pressure), rocking, jiggling/bouncing legs, biting nails, picking cuticles or scabs or your nose, rubbing eyes, massaging forehead or any body part really, air guitar or other instrument, dancing, twerking, watching the TV up close, staring at a lava lamp, cupping ears to listen to sounds or self talking, humming, whistling, singing, making up songs and parodies, holding body really tight, squeezing hands or fingers, flossing or brushing teeth or using toothpicks repetitively, cleaning ears, playing with hair (not just on your head but any hair.. facial hair, pubic hair, arm hair, leg hair, etc.), spitting, screaming, cutting, burning self, pinching self, punching or slapping yourself, head banging, banging your head against things, doodling and drawing, flickering lights, getting tattoos, using a massage gun, pacing, scrolling social media (especially videos), practicing your handwriting with the same word(s) over and over, monologuing stuff from a musical or play, mimicking or impersonating someone, spinning in a computer chair or on your feet, riding the same ride over and over at an amusement park or toys on a playground (swings, zipline, merry-go-round, etc.), swimming, "cricket feet", laying over the side of the bed and kicking/swinging legs, gymnastic moves (cartwheels, somersaults, etc.), rubbing textures (fabric, counter/desktops, etc.), knitting, crocheting, petting an animal, wiggling toes, rolling eyes, rolling wrists or ankles, chewing on inner cheek or lips or tongue, sighing, shrugging, pulling on ears/earlobes, playing with piercings, snapping fingers, tapping/drumming fingers, scratching self, snapping rubber bands, origami, shuffling cards, chewing on straws or pen caps, winding headphone cord or "home phone" cords around your fingers, flipping things (coins, cups, dice, etc.), cracking joints (knuckles, ankles, back, neck, etc.), spinning a ring you're wearing or fiddling with jewelry, making a fist and squeezing your thumb in it, running on a treadmill, riding a bike, participating in marathons, speedreading, myofascial tools, weight lifting, lighting candles, smelling essential oils, baking a big batch of something, playing the same level of a game over and over, tetris, rubiks cube, beatboxing, jingling keys, stomping, moshing, hugging a stuffed animal, cleaning, focusing and unfocusing your gaze, blinking rapidly or purposefully trying not to blink, ASMR videos, "oddly satisfying" videos, watching rain or a thunderstorm, cuddling with someone, clenching your core or kegels, "clicking" pens, clapping, using sign language, tearing paper, taking an electronic apart (and putting it back together), popping pimples, plucking hair, braiding hair, turning on a fan (to listen to or to feel the breeze or to watch it move or to talk into it to distort your voice), counting, clicking your tongue, rapping and rhyming, tickling or being tickled, jumping rope, hula hooping, skating, using a balance board, performing rituals, memorizing things, reading license plates or signs, playing an instrument, building with legos, laying on a cold floor or warm surface, using a heated or weighted blanket, bath bombs, collecting objects, looking for patterns (puzzles, sudoku, etc.), wiggling your nose or ears, puffing cheeks or blowing out air, vocalizing somewhere there's an echo, "tracing" letters or shapes with your vision, popping bubblewrap, sitting or laying on your hands or feet, raising one hand up in the air (usually done while laying), pressing into cheeks and dragging them down, mimicking your animals' noises or movements, clenching jaw/teeth, licking your teeth, eating food in a specific order, repeating TV jingles, watching shocking or disturbing videos, blowing bubbles, playing with water (pouring, mixing liquids, etc.), existing in the wind and feeling the breeze on your skin, furrowing your eyebrows, daydreaming a particular scenario, checking stocks or bank account numbers, rubbing/running your nails against your fingertips or other body parts, cleaning under your nails, painting your nails (especially if you then look at them and appreciate how the light hits them), aerial aerobics, pole aerobics, deep pressure yoga or massages, sitting on the ground and running your fingers over the carpet or rug, smelling your fingers or other body parts, pressure washing, tickling your face or neck with your hair, driving "donuts", go-karting or racing, crunching/eating ice, sitting with your legs crossed or one tucked under you, rubbing your tongue against the roof of your mouth, sticking your tongue out while you think ("tongue thrusting"- very common), typing in your mind, shuffling feet, walking or standing on the sides of your feet, sucking on a thumb or pacifier or other object, drawing mazes, having someone "draw" or "write" on your back, messing with your phone's pop socket, impulse buying (auctions, ebay, retail, etc.) ... and making a list of all of the possible stims you can think of (list-making in general.)

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