This question came from a mom who is like my aunt, and her daughter is very much my unofficial little sister. Here it is:
My daughter is entering middle school and has been experiencing increased amounts of stress in her classrooms. Can you recommend stims for a middle school student that would be appropriate for classrooms, for hallway time and or stim break time?
Excellent question. Before I give classroom stimming ideas to you, I would like to note that every teacher has different classroom rules, and expectations from students. It is even harder in middle school and high school because there are have multiple teachers during the school day. It can be difficult for an autistic individual to follow so many individual sets of rules, creating mixed signals and frustrations about knowing what is okay and what is not.
With that in mind, I decided create a video (see below) to answer your question. I was very escalated while filming in public, and there were several people looking at me with curious eyes. I could not have completed my video without using these stims to calm down. With the classroom stims, I was able to self-regulate and complete the footage I needed. It was a win-win situation.
Within my video, are examples of ways to stim, that I believe to be most accepting within classroom settings. All of the stims shown, I did when I was in school. Without these stims, school would have been even harder for me. Most teachers never said anything to me when I did any of these stims, except for the ones that were really against doodling in class, which wasn’t often. Drawing and doodling was one of the only ways I could pay attention in my classes. But, to a teacher it sometimes seemed like the opposite.
Keep in mind, that many autistic individuals can listen better when looking away. It allows us to not have to process the person delivering the information, in addition to the information already being given.
Stimming is a way to release excess energy from stress and anxiety. For me, the more I stim, the less intense my stims are. So, I stim a lot in what seems like more subtle ways, so that I can release my excess energy more consistently. Although, there are always times when a moment it too exciting, stressful, frustrating, sad (or some other emotion) to stim in a less intense way.
So, that is when my screams, high-pitched squeals, spastic arms, heavy rocking or jumping show up. And those moments are just what I need to process through that excess energy/information. I love those moments because it means I just saved myself from being forced to shutdown.
Here is a list of some good classroom stims:
• doodling on some blank paper
• tracing text and images within a text book, with a finger
• quietly tapping feet
• arranging pens and pencils on desk
• hand flapping with arms downward
• thumbing through pages in a book
• rubbing an eraser with thumb
• fiddling with jewelry, hair, scarf, a pen/pencil, et cetera