Ask Andrew: Navigating Responses To Stimming

emotional intelligence  mindfulness  positive parenting 

By Andrew Patterson

Ask Andrew: Navigating Responses To Stimming

Today Andrew answers: How do you deal with people making fun of stims? Especially loud vocal ones?

Hi! I’m Andrew from Generation Mindful's newest recurring weekly feature, Ask Andrew. In Ask Andrew, I’ll be taking any and all questions regarding the autism spectrum with particular emphasis on childhood development as an authentic autistic adult. Let’s get started!

For our third Q and A, you can watch the video and/or read my response below.

Q: How do you deal with people making fun of stims? Especially loud vocal ones? Thanks!

A: I usually tend to avoid contact with them whenever possible when I see it happen and attempt to sever them from my life as soon as possible. It is a low blow to taunt someone who is doing something that is a product of their stress process. If it is severe enough in a class or work setting you should have no reservations reporting them. 

If you’re worried about being seen as a tattletale, please allow me to assure you this isn’t the case. Tattletales go looking for trouble and report minor infractions in order to earn brownie points with authority figures. Bullying victims who stick up for themselves and those who stand up for bullying victims who speak up are heroes, not sycophants.

In my freshman year of high school, I was relayed the popular threat, “snitches get stitches” and immediately thought it was the stupidest thing I had ever heard in my life. And with nearly ten years having passed since then, I still think it ranks as one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard in my life. And I’m not someone who uses words like dumb or stupid lightly. 

The expression “snitches get stitches” is designed to scare the victims of injustice, and a credo the weak of character aspire to. If your school, place of work, or various authority figures won’t help you, keep to yourself and bear in mind how unhappy bullies tend to be. Carrying a judgemental attitude and wrath around is fundamentally unhealthy. Odds are, you won’t have to interact with them again.

I had a particularly disturbing experience stimming when I was twenty years old. I was walking around in a circle near this park not bothering anyone listening to Coldplay (Up With the Birds) and this grown man twice my age butted in demanding to know what I was doing. He accused me of not being okay and that I was a threat to children (there were no kids at the park). 

Everything about this man, who I shall choose to refer to as Sabretooth going forward, was slightly off in his demeanor and attitude. Sabretooth was the one still circling the park twenty minutes later when I returned despite having accused me of being a creep. Sabretooth wore a Wolverine shirt suggesting he viewed the character only as a tough guy who always got his way. And to add insult to injury my Chameleon was kicked out of the Pokémon Go Gym soon after I left. To this day, my headcanon is that Sabretooth didn’t like the competition and scared me off so he could take over the gym. Classy.

I returned home fuming and distraught. The moment my dad heard what had happened, he said show me where he is. We returned to the park and the moment I pointed Sabretooth out my dad exploded at him about how DARE he treat an autistic person like that and what a bad person he was for having done so. It was so awesome. My dad is the real Wolverine, and it exposed how much Sabretooth was like his comic book counterpart. The villainous less-good equivalent who could dress like Wolverine and talk tough like Wolverine but Sabretooth sure as heck was no Wolverine.

As Sabretooth fled with his tail tucked between his legs, I stood beholden to this hero who had held me a few minutes after I was born and had raised me to be the man I am today fuming with the burden of his paternal instincts. It occurred to me how lucky I really was. While I don’t generally encourage yelling as a problem-solving method, Sabretooth was a special case. If a stranger is threatening your kid, do what comes naturally and call them out on it. He was clearly the kind of man who told female strangers to smile, comfortable in his role as a bully. The Sabertooths of the world require a metaphorical Muramasa blade of intelligence and love to cut through the core of their kind, causing an evolution in compassion.

Additionally, I recommend filming bullying if you see it happening. Sabretooth was clearly upset when I had my camera out (there was no filter that made him look good), implying he had a record of disturbing the peace in the past. By all means, whip out your phone and loudly proclaim you are doing so if you see people being bullied in a public setting. People like Sabretooth are mighty brave when they don’t think anyone will do anything, but if we as a society shamed bullying in the way we shamed stims the world would be a much better place.

And to anyone who is currently or was bullied for stimming, as Chris Martin says in Up With the Birds “good things are coming our way.”Q: How do you deal with people making fun of stims? Especially loud vocal ones? Thanks!

A: I usually tend to avoid contact with them whenever possible when I see it happen and attempt to sever them from my life as soon as possible. It is a low blow to taunt someone who is doing something that is a product of their stress process. If it is severe enough in a class or work setting you should have no reservations reporting them. 

If you’re worried about being seen as a tattletale, please allow me to assure you this isn’t the case. Tattletales go looking for trouble and report minor infractions in order to earn brownie points with authority figures. Bullying victims who stick up for themselves and those who stand up for bullying victims who speak up are heroes, not sycophants.

In my freshman year of high school, I was relayed the popular threat, “snitches get stitches” and immediately thought it was the stupidest thing I had ever heard in my life. And with nearly ten years having passed since then, I still think it ranks as one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard in my life. And I’m not someone who uses words like dumb or stupid lightly. 

The expression “snitches get stitches” is designed to scare the victims of injustice, and a credo the weak of character aspire to. If your school, place of work, or various authority figures won’t help you, keep to yourself and bear in mind how unhappy bullies tend to be. Carrying a judgmental attitude and wrath around is fundamentally unhealthy. Odds are, you won’t have to interact with them again.

I had a particularly disturbing experience stimming when I was twenty years old. I was walking around in a circle near this park not bothering anyone listening to Coldplay (Up With the Birds) and this grown man twice my age butted in demanding to know what I was doing. He accused me of not being okay and that I was a threat to children (there were no kids at the park). 

Everything about this man, who I shall choose to refer to as Sabretooth going forward, was slightly off in his demeanor and attitude. Sabretooth was the one still circling the park twenty minutes later when I returned despite having accused me of being a creep. Sabretooth wore a Wolverine shirt suggesting he viewed the character only as a tough guy who always got his way. And to add insult to injury my Chameleon was kicked out of the Pokémon Go Gym soon after I left. To this day, my headcanon is that Sabretooth didn’t like the competition and scared me off so he could take over the gym. Classy.

I returned home fuming and distraught. The moment my dad heard what had happened, he said show me where he is. We returned to the park and the moment I pointed Sabretooth out my dad exploded at him about how DARE he treat an autistic person like that and what a bad person he was for having done so. It was so awesome. My dad is the real Wolverine, and it exposed how much Sabretooth was like his comic book counterpart. The villainous less-good equivalent who could dress like Wolverine and talk tough like Wolverine but Sabretooth sure as heck was no Wolverine.

As Sabretooth fled with his tail tucked between his legs, I stood beholden to this hero who had held me a few minutes after I was born and had raised me to be the man I am today fuming with the burden of his paternal instincts. It occurred to me how lucky I really was. While I don’t generally encourage yelling as a problem-solving method, Sabretooth was a special case. If a stranger is threatening your kid, do what comes naturally and call them out on it. He was clearly the kind of man who told female strangers to smile, comfortable in his role as a bully. The Sabertooths of the world require a metaphorical Muramasa blade of intelligence and love to cut through the core of their kind, causing an evolution in compassion.

Additionally, I recommend filming bullying if you see it happening. Sabretooth was clearly upset when I had my camera out (there was no filter that made him look good), implying he had a record of disturbing the peace in the past. By all means, whip out your phone and loudly proclaim you are doing so if you see people being bullied in a public setting. People like Sabretooth are mighty brave when they don’t think anyone will do anything, but if we as a society shamed bullying in the way we shamed stims the world would be a much better place.

And to anyone who is currently or was bullied for stimming, as Chris Martin says in Up With the Birds “good things are coming our way.”

•  •  •

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