Writing Autistic

Writing Autistic – Stimming – Part Two

Part One Here

So, now that I’ve got my rant about how to write stimming ethically out of the way, we can finally get to the practical side of it.

Much like with SPD (Power Rangers to the rescue! and no, this joke will never die), the best thing you can do is have a character sheet and add stims to it. Know how your character stims and when so that you keep it consistent throughout the story.

Here is some info on stimming to help you do that:

Reasons to Stim

One of the most annoying things authors do is write stimming as a “symptom” of autism and nothing more. There’s no reason for the character to be stimming. They just are. Because that’s what autistic people do, right?

Stimming isn’t random. It’s not without purpose. Even if that purpose is just “I like it.”

Body Language

Stims are often body language for Autistic people. I bounce when I’m happy and I flap my hands when I’m frustrated. These aren’t universal to Autistic people, and might in fact be reversed, but it’s an example. You should write this just like you’d write body language for an Allistic character. Just remember to keep it consistent.


Having sensory input being all over the place is a nightmare. Sometimes you need to generate your own just to have something within your control. Sometimes you’re undersensitive to things and seek them out. Stimming can do all of this.

Types of Stimming

Stimming isn’t just hand-flapping. It can be, but there are hundreds of different ways to stim. If you need specific examples, I suggest going here. Here are some general ones:


Sometimes stims look exactly like fidgeting/bad habits in an NT. Biting nails, tapping pencils, chewing hair, etc. But when we do it, it’s pathologised.

Sensory Input

These are things that we do for the specific sensory input. Like lightly scratching your skin or having a piece of fuzzy fabric.

Stim Toys

Stim toys are objects specifically designed for stimming with and can be bought at online stores like this one. They’re usually designed to be discreet and more durable or (in the case of chewable jewelry and the like) safer than make-shift counterparts. Having your character use a stim toy would be a level of realism hardly seen.


Sometimes stims can be self-injurious.

This is not the same as self-injury.

Sometimes stims can cause injury. This is not the same as wanting to hurt yourself. It’s not a sign of depression. It’s a side-effect of the stim.

Yes, this is bad. But sensationalising it in your story, or making it a sign that someone is “low-functioning” (more on functioning labels here) isn’t the way to handle it.

If you *must* write a character dealing with self-injurious stims, please try to write them with tact. Not as a sign that autism is evil, but as something your character just has to deal with.

More on how to deal with self-injurious stims here.

More on stims in general here.

This was originally posted to on 14/6/15.

One reply on “Writing Autistic – Stimming – Part Two”

I gave the 12th Doctor a No Gloom ‘Shroom in my ficcage. Clara gave it to him so he would stop destroying his fingernails by biting them to the quick. He rocks when he plays his guitar and sometimes chews the ‘shroom too because he likes that feeling. He does a lot of stimming onscreen too, namely the hands-clasped-finger-wiggles, which combined with his social difficulties led to me looking at the headcanon in the first place. He also stims by touching his hair, biting his lips and sometimes full body movements. Aaaaand he has a huge onscreen meltdown which was the exclamation point for Autistic Doctor! (The Doctor is autistic and his different incarnations each show it their own way is how I see it.)

Groot has a chew tube that comes out for meltdowns. He deals with some scary SIB when he goes into meltdowns; he bites and punches himself to the point of physical injury, so the chew tube mitigates his bite impulse. I don’t hide from it in my writing, but I don’t make it like he’s pitiful either. It’s just a thing that happens and the other characters know how to help him through it. Groot can’t live independently and needs a lot of help with things most people consider “simple” however he’s still a full character and I don’t let anybody forget it either!

Meltdowns are like our nervous systems burping or farting in a quiet place like church or an exam. They suck and they’re embarrassing, but we move on. That’s how I see them anyway. *flaps*

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