Stimming on the Autism Spectrum

Posted on

When I was younger, I wasn’t too proud that I was moving weirdly when I was amongst my peers. There were some moments where I thought that I was different because I played with my fingers a lot and pretended, they were action figures. This was something that would eventually play a huge role in my adult life. I used stimming to express myself and ultimately found more intriguing things to do like biting metals and staring at objects to help maintain focus.

Hand movements

I always needed to do something to keep my hands moving. My solution was to play video games by myself or with peers without having the intent to win or lose the video games. This also replaced the need bang on the table often to have a sense of focus before I start an assignment. So, because of this, I found myself being a “haptic learner.” I love to make noises or bite my metal objects before I start typing ideas or doing something else. This calms me down as I am typing, writing, or even analyzing a thought. When I was in middle school, this was something that I didn’t do as much unless I was outside of classes. Whenever I did an activity I liked, whether it was drawing or pretending to draw and type, I would often imagine myself in other scenarios. I would do this silently since I wasn’t too big on talking to myself in a public setting and I just motioned everything by drawing objects on the table with my fingers. This helped me because I didn’t really know how to assumedly “think up” what I had to do solve certain problems, especially with mathematics.

Also, another issue I had was the positioning of my body. I didn’t know the difference between left and right so, I would sit in a certain way to remember which were my left and right hands. I probably should’ve thought at that time that “the right hand” is the hand that I write with, but I didn’t get used to those mnemonic cues until much later on. So, the way I learned was by the positioning of my desk. It felt like it was facing upwards, it was hard to explain, but that’s how I gave out directions to others. Most of the time, others probably thought I was breaking conversation because I faced my body a certain way to give myself or others directions.

However, I think this came out a bit more advantageous when I hit high school. I went to a music college prep high school and the musical aspects was actually one of the things that taught me mnemonic cues and how to use them to analyze music. It then became a study aid when I was learning how to tap my desk to spell words. It’s hard to tell if it was a form of Morse code, but I could somehow spell better if I tapped to imagine the letter of the word rather than say it. I know now that’s how others use it in settings such as spelling bees, I probably wouldn’t know how to use in a tense setting like that. Also, around that time, I got used to speed texting on 12-keypads and swipe texting on “qwerty” keyboards, this helped me with words that I didn’t know how to spell. For me, learning music and math went hand-in-hand with each other. This gave me an opportunity to make my “metronome” and simply become content with making a steady pace by taps whenever I get nervous. It one of the useful tactics that actually helped whenever I studied for quizzes, and I continue to use it even as an adult.

Of course, I cannot forget about video gaming. I often have to hold my controller in certain ways or even mash the buttons really hard. I never knew why I liked the way video game controllers or typing sounds but it’s something that I just do on my own, which now reminds me of other hand gestures I often do.

Hand movements II

On some occasions, it may seem like whenever I’m having conversations with others, they may think that I’m wandering off in my own world because I’m either playing with my hands or tapping too loud. When I was younger, I was told to not do this at all. I didn’t know how else communicate and if I saw something I usually had a stalled response. It made me feel bad sometimes when I made motion for it, but it was misread. Slowly but surely, I did find the time to make these gestures subtler, but of course there are still times when people think I take hand motions a tad bit too far even when the issue isn’t miscommunication.

One instance of this is when I’ll just leave my index out during self-thought. Someone will probably perceive it as to “go that way” or to simply “look up” or “look down” when it’s just me thinking to myself. Other instances it’s that whenever I walk, I would knock on a wall as soon as I enter a room to keep balance. I do this because I often make some pretty sharp turns when I’m walking to places. If I find a way to read the room beforehand, then I either rub the wall as support or knock on the wall when I’m making a turn to where I have to go. Sometimes this results in me accidentally knocking on a door or accidentally knocking something off a platform where my hands are touching or wherever I’m sitting.

The same thing happens when I’m studying. Whenever I type, it’s often aggressive and fast. I enjoy speed typing and I like the way certain keyboards feel. I also often tap the table before I type. I don’t know why I do that, but I just feel the need to do it as a form of hand exercises. It gives my hands a break and gets myself out of intense typing. I also do a little finger jittering on the side to give my hands a rest, and then afterwards I can just continue to type where I left off.

I don’t really find this section of stimming as an issue; however, this is one of the few parts of it I enjoy very much.


When it comes to putting things near my face, I often have this strange thought to bite them, especially metals. I believe this started when I was eating. I would have this idea to finish my food and if it was with a fork, I would tap the fork on my teeth a few times and then just hold it there. This wasn’t something that I saw as “wrong” or “right.” I never had any complaints about this and this was also something that I continue as an adult now. When it comes down to wearing jewelry, I like the way most of it feels. If it’s a cold metal necklace or a ring on a hot day, then I often rub that on my face and sometimes bite it because it has that same texture as a fork. Although, the intent to swallow them never came to my mind simply because I never had the thought of swallowing a fork so the same applies to jewelry and any other metallic object.

I only had one incident where I almost swallowed a penny. I really can’t imagine any moment where I am not holding metals near my lips or on my face simply because I like the way it feels. I always have the intention to bite it but it has never gone any further that that, especially since I just use it as a means to study or to think. Also, because I don’t do this as much in public, I find that it’s also important that if I am going to go and talk about this, that I need to inform the readers that I do clean all of the metals that I bite before and after I leave the house.


If there’s anything I can say about myself in public setting, is that I often move around in circles. Most of this just seems like I like to do this on occasions to when I want to study a room or a place I visited. If I went to a mall, I would visit a store and then revisit it after going up on the escalators, walking around the hallway, and then coming back into the store. The same is said whenever I visit parks. I take a few “blind laps” and then go back to where I started just to get the feel of the area. I usually do these actions by myself rather than with a large group of people. Again, I don’t know why my movement patterns are like that, but I do think that it does help to grab a certain visual whenever I visit a certain place that I like.

The same is said whenever I am studying as well. If it’s any class that has either debates or even group conversations, then one thing is that I don’t really keep eye contact with the person that I am talking to. I just don’t think there’s a proper way to do it. So, I usually position my eye in a way that I am showing interest or want to add in additional details. Also, I usually think I do better while walking and pointing if it’s a place that I know rather than going for a more traditional seated discussion. However, this does sometimes come off delayed since I do happen to point to others. I do understand that it can be a tad bit offensive, but I don’t mean it in that way, I naturally point out to things vigorously when I am either over-excited or speaking in a detailed, orientated manner.

Having the thought if I ever rush when I study, especially when it’s not needed. Also, when I’m having conversations, there are times when I pace in circles, especially when I am also excited. I would stop whenever someone tells me to do so. Even when I study sometimes, I have thought that I need to rush because I’m excited, especially when it’s not needed. Although, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any control over excited movements. I just don’t realize when I am moving way too much to indicate that I need to slow down amongst my peers.

I wanted to write this as a way to tell others that it’s okay to be yourself. This is especially true when stimming whether it’s in conversation setting or by yourself. There are some other forms of stimming that I didn’t mention here like echolalia, such as repeating movie lines or even spewing swear words. In some way, shape, or form, I do that now and sometimes have even does it as a kid. There are some forms of stimming that work in a public setting and others where it doesn’t because you don’t want it to be misunderstood. Despite the fact that most of my stimming seems “controlled,” it’s not only because I have studied in libraries or hallways that required reduced sounds, but also because I am generally someone who enjoys calming silence on my own. Hopefully the same goes for anyone else that freely expresses themselves either in their personal time or even in other settings that’s comforting to them and that there’s no issues behind that.

In conclusion, I feel as though that I have been open to stim in those same settings for others who are autistic, especially as a self-advocate. For me, stimming has always been pretty interesting, and I love to talk about it in different ways. The main thing I needed to figure out for myself was understanding why I do it and why I like to move a lot. I learned it’s because it’s all in the form of how I perceive things and express myself, just as each note in a song is a form of expression so the same should apply to forms of stimming.

Also, this TikTok link below is a brief take on how I stim:


My name is Khylil Robinson, I recently finished taking classes Community College of Philadelphia. I am really glad to have this opportunity to share my personal experiences towards other autistic individuals like myself. During my spare time, I like to improve my typing skills and play video games. I don’t think I am as good as I think myself to be, but I have accomplished a lot regarding my disability and I want to keep on moving forward in life and in school. I intend to fulfill my goal as a public speaker for autism and a math major in the future.

View all posts