Normalizing Stimming in the Workplace

The power of music.

Often music is relatable and emotionally moving. However, for us it takes on a life of its own and has such incredible power.

What our stims look like

Stimming is an autistic trait that we always do with music. We have noise-cancelling headphones and we put them on and have a concert with no background sound. You will see us mouth to the words, rocking, and sometimes humming random sounds. This is something that people in our everyday life don’t see because, during work hours, we suppress this need. Yes, stimming is really a need. It is our body letting out stress, excitement, and anxiety. Really, there is nothing wrong with this, but it does tend to make people uncomfortable. The awkwardness conditioned us to hide our autistic traits. But there is nothing wrong with them!

This is one of the reasons we enjoy working remotely. We can turn off the camera and we can work in our space and not worry if a stim pops out randomly and is met by judging eyes. And We can listen to music. In fact, no matter what we are doing at work, we have music playing. Yes, even in meetings we have our favorite songs open and we listen.

This not only helps us focus, but it gives our brain enough distraction to more easily suppress stims. Now, this can backfire if we play certain songs that trigger intense stimming, so we have specific playlists we use during interpersonal interactions. We handpick the songs that will help us maintain our focus during a meeting.

Also, we have facial movements that happen. Movement of our lips and eyes and even neck twitches. To be honest, we have a harder time masking these and have stopped trying. You know that people see it, but they ignore it for fear of being rude. We would rather people ask. We always welcome questions since that is how people learn to accept differences.

Changes to the World

Scrolling on Instagram, we run into a lot of pro-stimming and stimming-positive videos. This is so important to normalizing stimming! The more people see it, the more people accept it and the more comfortable people with this trait can feel in the workplace.

It would be amazing to work and not mask. To not hide what movements our body does during an interaction. It is exhausting to subdue your natural behaviors. Imagine that you were told you can’t smile at work. Anytime you want to smile you have to frown. It would be hard! You would have to make the conscious decision not to show any happiness on your face. That is what it is like to hide stimming. It is mentally exhausting to monitor your own physical actions for eight hours per day.

Acceptance of differences is so hard for people. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. The stigma surrounding stimming needs to be broken and we applaud everyone that is taking the chance to show their authentic self. We are making the decision to stop hiding our stims. They are part of who we are and they are authentically us.

Why suppress your authentic self to make others socially comfortable?

You are great the way you are! Show your stims with pride!

Read more on Stimming from Spectrum News

Repetitive behaviors and ‘stimming’ in autism, explained

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