Hidden Stimming

Hmm. Here's a question.

I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about Aspergers, High Functioning Autism, ASD. Whatever it's called.

Doing my history and trying to work "me" out, I find that there's a few things that don't really seem to make sense. 

I don't recall as a kid having meltdowns, or needing routine, or hating change as such, but I also don't recall stimming.

Which brings me on to the questions. They say that there is a number of people on the spectrum who go undiagnosed. If stimming is such an integral part of being on the spectrum, then why is this behaviour not seen in childhood? How can they go through the net without a diagnosis?

Can you be on the spectrum without stimming or is there lots of kinds of stimming that actually, what could well be stimming may just be seen as a relatively normal behaviour for a child?


  • The move is to call all autistic spectrum conditions, autistic spectrum conditions. It does away with the series of confusing names. There is no such thing as 'high function', although people who use it have yet to respond to my request that they define what they mean by it.

    Some call autism a 'disorder' and some call it a 'condition'. My personal preference is for the latter. I call NT a condition too, because I can't help but pity the poor creatures.

    It isn't a given that anyone will display or be affected by any perticular trait. Equally, it's possible to have traits without being AS. This is the problem with 'tick' lists - it's a distraction only, not a definitive guide.

    Assessment is a 'holistic' process. It's about what DOES affect you, and how it affects your life. There are things that we have in common, but we're not likely to discuss that with you for good reasons. We know what they are, and they're based on our life's experiences and not on a bunch of tests or check lists. Much of our discussion on here centres around those very issues, finding what we have in common, and how we deal with it.

    It isn't always possible to see ourselves as others see us. In fact, it is perfectly human to go straight to denial - 'no I don't, that's not me' etc etc, even when other people say 'oh yes you do, oh yes it is'.

    You may not have some traits, you may have them and think that everyone does, you may have them and not see them for what they are. This is the purpose of the diagnostic interview, which is a dynamic process and not an exercise in ticking boxes.

    Any of us can find, at any time, that suddenly, something trips us, overwhelms us, scares us, gets us into trouble - we can't predict when, where how , what or why, but we know that sooner or later, it will happen. Something that I ignore could be enough to send the AS next to me into total meltdown, that's how our individual sensitivity to sensory overload works. It can be cumulative, it can be instant, it can't be predicted. Or ticked off on a list.

    Probably the best answer you'll ever get is 'possibly', because it all depends on the individual and particular circumstances. There are no 'one size fits all' answers, that's why it's called a 'spectrum'.

  • Could you not have traits and yet still be on the spectrum, if say, you don't have any overt physical symptoms, but psychologically, there are problems?

  • Yes you can be officially diagnosed with Traits and therefore on the spectrum.

    Dont forget with ASD we each have our own experiences 

  • Hi there,

    I went undiagnosed until 2 years ago, aged 56.  I didn't have many of what I'd call 'public' behavioural traits as a child.  But I had private rituals that I had to go through before I could be comfortable with things.  Adjustments to my pillow, for instance, so that it was the exact distance from each side of the bed.  I also, as mentioned in another thread, tapped and chewed my tongue.  So there might not have been any obvious physical signs - but there were plenty of others.  I was clearly bright - I learned to read and write early, and was top at my class in primary school with reading and spelling - but I was bottom of the class in every other respect.  This continued throughout my school years.  I wasn't attentive in class.  I used to sit and doodle, or look out of the window.  I didn't make friends - and still don't.  I was always the one on the edge of the playground - either alone, or hanging with the other 'freaks' as we were called.  My school reports were invariably littered with words and phrases like 'quiet', 'easily-led', 'disruptive', 'unsociable', 'never pays attention', etc.

    As others have said - it's a spectrum, so behaviours and traits will differ from person to person.  We're as different from each other as we are collectively from neurotypicals.

    Best regards,


  • You've hit on something that I wasn't sure about either.  I am in my 40s and it was only in recent years that I realised that I identified with Asperger's.  Stimming is something that I hadn't really noticed before or put a name on.  The most common examples given are spinning and flapping your hands which I have never done.  Other suggestions were fiddling with your hair, but I think many people (especially people with long hair) are prone to fiddling with their hair, so that wasn't terribly helpful even though I do that.
    However, when I really started to think back to my childhood and adolescence I remember going through a period of clicking my throat.  I remember it because it started to annoy my family and they kept telling me to stop.  However, I found it difficult to stop doing it once I started and eventually started leaving the room to do it without anyone around me.  Similarly I seem to remember doing things like blinking a set number of times.  Again I found it difficult not to do it once I'd started doing it, I had to complete the routine.
    I think it must depend on why you are doing these things as to whether it is classed as stimming or not.  I trained myself out of doing these things because I kept getting into trouble for doing them, so I'm not sure if there is anything I do now that would be classed as 'stimming' (possibly pinching my lips with my fingers, also I have a chronic pain condition and I often poke the area to make it hurt more).  I can't remember fully why I did the things I did or what I felt whilst doing them, but I do know that I had difficulty not doing them, particularly if I'd started on a routine of doing them, and it took a long time to train myself to stop doing them.  I'm not really sure why I poke for the pain, I guess to be sure I can feel it or something like that, it's become strangely like 'an old friend'.
    I guess anyone could 'stim', but the diagnosis for autism is about a whole range of things.  Also to have grown up without any clue that you are autistic you just assume that anything you did or experienced was something that could have been experienced by anyone.  So you don't really think about it or put a label on it.  It just is what it is.

  • I know this is over a year old but I'm new to this site, I was recently diagnosed as being on the spectrum (only 5 months ago).

    I'd wondered this myself as I don't 'outwardly stim' like some people on the spectrum do. It was enough to make me panic & think that maybe I wasn't actually autistic (having some people around me that were so agressvely against me seeking diagnosis didn't help much either).

    But the more I researched, the more I realised that there aren't necessarily 'basic' stims that people do, there isn't a checklist on what every single stim is; or what they could be. 
    I noticed that a common one for me is leg bobbing, & I mean non stop leg bobbing to the point where my leg muscles get tired. I also chew on the side of my tongue to the point where it gets sore & bleeds. I also pick my nails or just play with items in my hands (like pens etc).
    I also read up on 'hand flapping' when someone on ASD gets excited or happy, which I scoffed at at first, thinking 'oh I never do anything like that'.
    Then it dawned on me that whenever I'm chatting to my friends online, I would often write 'happy hand flappings' as a joke to depict my happiness or excitement at something, I even drew a silly picture of me doing it... Because I will always bloody flap my hands whenever I am really happy or excited about something lol. 
    I even caught myself doing it the other night when I was playing a video game, I managed to tame a prehistoric horse on the game ARK, & I bounced in my chair & flapped my hand like an utter twit haha. Before being diagnosed, I never even noticed I did that.
    I also do something that is referred to as 'inwards stimming', where I will basically just shut myself off from the world, listen to music & escape into one of the many stories I have circling in my mind. I do this every single day, it helps me go to sleep, it keeps me calm when I'm out in public etc.

    I've only recently been diagnosed. I sought out diagnosis when I noticed a lot of similarities in myself & those on the spectrum, & although it's a relief to finally know why I am the way I am, I'm still learning & discovering a lot about myself. Reading up on people's personal experiences has always been a great help, because this is something that affects people in so many different ways, & as such it's a condition that also expresses itself in numerous different ways. 

    You may not have an outwardly physical stim, but you probably do have one or two that you do but you just don't realise you're doing it.