Stimming is a necessity for autistic people. It allows us to manage our sensory overload, keep our stress levels down, and generally maintain an even keel. If we’re going to hold a job, stimming is even more essential to keep us functioning well in that environment. But for many of us, asking for accommodations or even showing our autism can put our jobs at risk. Yes, that should be illegal and our advocacy groups are working on it. In the meantime, we need ways to stim that can get us through the workday without attracting attention from our coworkers or bosses. So here are some of my favorite forms of office-safe stimming.
This is the easiest thing ever! Almost all office chairs swivel and rock. For the entire ten years of my last office job, I had a little rock or a bit of a twist going all day, every day in that chair. The only issue I ever ran into was when it developed a squeak, which would bother other people. With that in mind, if you’re a chair-rocker, I highly recommend keeping some kind of lubricant on hand. LiquiFix is recommended as a non-smelly alternative to liquid graphite lubricants. For a full rundown on how to properly fix a squeaky chair yourself, look here.
If you prefer oral stimming, you’re in luck! Chewing can be a great covert stim. For instance, nobody looks twice at a gum chewer (unless you’re smacking or chewing with your mouth open or something). Lots of NTs are kind of obsessive about chewing gum; they say it’s to keep their breath fresh or keep them from eating or all manner of excuses. All you have to say is that you’re a gum chewer, and they’ll let it go.
For a stronger, firmer bite, you might like a tough gummy candy like Twizzlers or licorice. One or two of those can provide a good amount of stimming. Alternatively, you can just keep one in your mouth and gnaw on it for a bit. NTs who see that will probably assume you’re trying to get your sweet fix without taking in too many calories, and that’s a perfectly good cover story to use. Twizzlers also come in little packs of bite-sized pieces, which could be another good option.
If your workplace doesn’t allow gum or candy, or if you’re more of a pen chewer, then these chewable pencil toppers from Stimtastic might be a great idea. There are a few different styles and lots of colors to choose from, designed for various levels of chewing. Don’t worry about being caught with one of these on the end of your pen! If anyone asks, you need only say that you tend to chew on your pens and these toppers protect your teeth. Lots of people chew on pens, autistic or not, so it’s not that odd.
This one is particularly easy for women because offices tend to be too cold for us. Keep a soft, fuzzy cardigan or blanket on the back of your chair and you’ve got easy access to a tactile stim! Most people won’t question someone wearing a sweater or keeping a blanket on their lap in a cold office, except to ask a redundant question like “are you cold?”. You might get someone telling you “it’s not cold” as if their personal opinion were fact. I don’t know why they do that, but just ignore it or tell them that you’re comfortable this way. As soon as they turn their backs, you can enjoy your texture stim to your heart’s content.
You could also use a weighted blanket if that’s good for you. A lap blanket or weighted lap pad should be almost unnoticeable while you’re sitting at your desk. If someone should notice and say anything, you can blame it on the temperature or, if you think it’s a good idea, tell them it’s the same kind of thing they use to help kids with ADHD focus on their schoolwork. That diagnosis is so prevalent these days, you might have a coworker who knows about weighted blankets. But you can choose how much truth you want to tell about it.
These are the easiest covert, office-safe stims I know of. Lots of other stims can be adapted into a safe-for-work form, or tailored to your workplace. Sometimes it’s just a question of toning them down or using a different stim tool. With a little thought and preparation, we can keep both our stims and our jobs, and function at our best.
How do you stim at work? Do you know better ways to get your stimming in at the office? Have you ever been called out for stimming at work?