Tools for Autistic Adults

I try not to stray into consumerism here on this blog, but it’s just a fact that we need certain items to survive, and that might look different for different people. For autistic people, we may have specific sensory needs and challenges that others do not, and so we need different items.

Here are the best tools I use, as an autistic adult, in my every day life:


Chewelry (chew + jewelry) is a type of jewelry made specifically for oral stimming. That means that it’s a wearable item that is safe to chew on or hold in your mouth, and it can be cleaned easily. Mostly, it comes in the form of a silicone pendant on a necklace, but there are also fabric-type necklaces as well as bracelets.

My favorite is this feather one, for reasons I will discuss below.

If you want to upgrade your chewelry, I recommend replacing the default necklace with a thin leather cord. The leather won’t soak up saliva, meaning your entire chewelry experience will be much neater!

Weighted blanket.

Weighted blankets have become almost synonymous with neurodivergence.

I know people that put on the weighted blanket and instantly, visibly relax. I am not one of those people, but I still love my weighted blanket.

For a price-conscious approach, you can buy mass-produced weighted blankets for less than $100. Most of them are have covers that are plain gray, which suits me just fine as it’s my favorite color! If you’re looking for customization, however, there are also many creators on the internet that make weighted blankets out of different fabrics, so you can choose a print and a texture that suits you!

The downside of weighted blankets is that they are (obviously) not very portable. To solve this problem, weighted vests or lap pads are available too.

Ear defenders.

Ear defenders are the piece de resistance of my autism toolkit. I put them on and I instantly calm down.

The type I have do not play music or cancel sound using active technology— instead, they muffle everything using soft padding and a tight fit over your head. If you prefer music while you drown out atmospheric sound, that is of course an option, but I prefer silence.

Obviously, some louder noises still make it through, but the relief I experience when I put on my ear defenders is still amazing.

I have tried Loop earplugs, but found the sensation to be much worse. Having them directly in your ear makes its own sort of sound (like hearing the ocean in a seashell) which I found to be very unpleasant.

Telephone cord bracelet.

Telephone cord bracelets are the obvious choice for subtle public stimming. Like chewelry, it’s wearable, so it’s much harder to lose or to forget to bring. However, since you play with it with your hands and fingers, it’s much less noticeable than chewelry.

I use my telephone cord bracelet the most during doctor appointments, when I’m trying to appear confident while also focusing on the conversation.

Phone with notes app.

If I lose speech (something that happens often in conjunction with my trauma symptoms) I use my phone with its notes app to communicate.

I have tried just about every free specialized AAC app option on the market, but I found that writing text notes is more specific and just less awkward. For others, AAC apps may be a great option (especially if they struggle with the written word too when they lose speech) but they just did not work for me.

Food I want to eat.

If I have a specific samefood as part of my routine, I do my best to continue to acquire that food, rather than forcing myself to eat something I don’t want to eat. Sometimes that means ordering out (within reason!) or extra trips to the grocery store. Not forcing myself to eat food I don’t want is an important gesture of bodily autonomy and a way to buck neurotypical expectations that I’ve internalized.

On the other hand, there are many tools popular with autistic people that I have tried and not found to be helpful. This doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you or your loved ones, just that it didn’t work for me!

Here are some things that I tried that didn’t work:

Elastic bed cover.

An elastic bed cover was described to me as like a weighted blanket with less hassle, so I decided to try it out. I found it to be nothing like a weighted blanket, and soon took it off my bed.

Certain kinds of chewelry.

Unfortunately, if silicone chewelry is too thick, it makes me gag. I’m not sure why.

Most stim toys.

I find most stim toys to be unsatisfying, and I have tried a huge variety because they all look like fun! However, none of them compare to my telephone cord bracelet for portability and style.

Rented Room

the brick kitchen is comforting
and the fire escape adventurous and urban and
during midnight breakfasts cats curl around my calves but

i am the stranger
in the house.

this is the only home on the street.
the others are facades.
with the flick of a switch from the capitol
all the lights dance to life, supporting
spectacular shadow puppets, joints and jaws and all.
i speak to them sometimes, from the sidewalk
and they ask me if i'm alright.
of course i'm alright.

my window borders the church's parking lot,
and old church, with iron-strapped doors that feel like
imaginary months in Europe, and it has a bell
that tolls out over the city, or maybe dusty speakers
and every third hour it plays a ditty like a dour ice cream truck,
and each tone vibrates against itself like a violin lesson.

every night i walk to the gas station to buy beer.
i am only 22 but they know me, or they know
my face and my birthdate. they don't know
my nightmares and i don't know theirs.

Review: The Witch’s Path by Thorn Mooney

This is by far the best book on witchcraft I have ever read.

I am one of those people that will research witchcraft endlessly. This is part of the fun for me, but it’s also not actually practicing the “craft” part of witchcraft.

Here, Thorn Mooney writes a book for ALL witches, no matter their level. In each chapter, she writes about a foundational part of witchcraft. Not in a beginner-textbook way, but in a way that will reignite your spark for that particular aspect. The chapters are sacred space, devotion, ritual/magic, personal practice, and community.

The best part is the practical exercises at the end of each chapter. They come in sets of four, aligned with the four elements. Air is for beginner witches, fire is for witches that need something quick, water is for witches looking to deepen their practice, and earth is for witches that feel like they’ve already tried everything.

I highly recommend doing the exercises— I did some highlighting in my ebook and went back to them after I was finished reading. Some of them are long, 30-day “challenges,” so you may not want to wait to do them before you finish the book.

Note: the author is Wiccan, but she makes sure that the information in her book is applicable to witches of all paths!



I thought I rested in your palms like a music box,
when I hung in your grip
like an invalid. 

"I don't have words," I slurred, absolutely stoned
and oceaned with devotion,
and, fluttering, frustrated your questions
into silence.

You only saw my broadest sweeps, the
dashes and dots, some of the inevitabilites
and a wound or two.

You never could focus.

What Defines Mental Health?

I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about mental health, so I should be an expert by now, right? Mainly I troubleshoot and problem-solve, but what am I trying to achieve? What state of mental health do I strive for? What does mental health even mean?

Let’s start with what mental health is NOT.

-Obviously, it’s unrealistic to expect to be happy and joyful all the time, even though that would be nice. Maintaining perfect happiness is impossible, and therefore not the definition of mental health.

-Even though people with mental illnesses are often considered “strange” by society, mental health certainly doesn’t mean conforming to what is expected of us— in fact, that’s a fast track to mental illness.

-We also can’t strive to be totally and 100% ourselves, as many of our baser instincts must be tempered for the good of the people around us.

The definition of mental health, to me, is emotional flexibility. It’s being happy when there’s a personal reason to be happy and being sad when there’s a personal reason to be sad, and likewise for anger. These reasons may be very unique and not sanctioned by society (many of my happy-making interests are non-standard or “weird”) but they are valid reasons nonetheless, and shaped by a person’s history and personality.

Often, my emotions aren’t flexible. I was so depressed throughout my childhood and adolescence that I first felt happiness, first felt a positive feeling at all, at age 22. That would be enough to qualify many times over for “bad mental health,” but instead of feeling hopeful about the future, the experience left me even more depressed. I was suicidal in the weeks afterwards because I couldn’t fathom that other people got to feel that way much, much more frequently. They weren’t dying inside at their own birthday parties, blowing out the candles and wishing for an end to it all. They weren’t self-harming to get through the day. They weren’t hiding their emotions until they could be alone to cry. By comparison, my first taste of positivity felt like a gift from the divine.

(Even in Bipolar Disorder, emotions aren’t flexible more than the phase that person is in. If they’re manic, they’re going to interpret every event through the lens of their mania. If they’re depressed, their outlook will be depressed too. Borderline Personality Disorder, also famous for emotional highs and lows, is not true flexibility either— many times, people with BPD experience distorted emotions that are way off base for the situation, either in scope or in type.)

Now, as I get healthier, I experience happiness more often. I’m also learning to welcome sadness and anger. I’m no longer depressed 100% of the time. I’m striving towards emotional flexibility, and I’m getting there!


i have hit the cold floor again.

my lovers are sleeping soundly, dreaming
that i am still between them

while i grip the kitchen sink, taking sandpaper
to my frontal lobe,
feeling the solitary sage capsule
rattle in my ribcage.

i have cut my hair and
practiced violin and
thrown out my scissors and
i have been a man and

but at least i have a perfect sense of direction.

There is no such thing as mutual abuse.

There is no such thing as mutual abuse.

Abuse is a non-consensual power imbalance. The Domestic Violence Hotline defines domestic violence thus: “a pattern of behaviors used to gain or maintain power and control.” This pattern of behaviors (which may include coercion, threats, intimidation, and isolation, among other tactics) is not exclusive to any one gender, though abusive dynamics often mirror social privilege norms (which I will address in a forthcoming post).

There is, however, DEFINITELY such a thing as mutual toxicity. Often in relationships where one person has power over the other, neither are perfect. Either person may have been or currently be toxic in their other relationships, and engage in many unhealthy behaviors.

Two people cannot abuse each other, however, because abuse is about having power over another person in a way that they did not consent to.

This may seem like a matter of semantics, but often abusers will say things like “You’re abusing me too!” after survivors push back on the control being exerted on them.

When I was first looking into the matter of abusive relationships, it was to support a close friend who had just left one. She had me read Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That? and I was rendered very uncomfortable. Many of the behaviors were things that I had done— that one time I slapped my partner when he was transphobic to me? Telling someone honestly that I thought I might kill myself if they left me?

It was only after quite a bit of introspection (and support from aforementioned friend) that I realized that I was the one being abused. Besides the individual behaviors that one or each of us engaged in, the overall dynamic of the relationship leaned heavily in his favor. He got what he wanted, and I didn’t.

Years later, I found out this was a pattern, and that he had been doing all of it on purpose. The moment of clarity was crystal clear and razor sharp– I had barely avoided serious bodily harm in the four years we were together. After that revelation, I never doubted that all along I was just an unhealthy person trying my damnedest to be heard.

If you are in an unhealthy dynamic, please remember this. No one can tell from outside a relationship who is abusive and who isn’t, but there is ALWAYS hope to leave and/or to change.

Father/Son Dance

I am the child that crunched up near the tire grease and spectated intently
and delighted in the music of your voice, the nonsense rhymes
of chrome&cog mechanics

& when I jubilantly said I'd grow up to be Daddy, the miscommunication made you dream
of blueprints and lava soap, and crescent wrenches laid out like piano keys

but what I wanted
was feet to fit your boots,
complete with hairy toes encased in steel

& not the endless meaningless blood,
in gushes and torrents and nauseous waves,
that was at first a shock, a day of tears, but then subsided
into another dull ache of resentment, bone-deep, chromosomal.

You could have passed on to me
the tribal drumbeat XY chant. Instead
my cells hum white noise, one syllable like the Hindu om, ringing like trapped water in my ears.

The peyote god has granted me a different dance but
there's no shining desert beyond the chrome of the kitchen when,
a decade later, we stand at the sink, arms newly scrubbed of grease

and I spit it up finally and your lips go thin and disappear
into your beard. I know our Anglican world won't abide
any of that silly vision business, or drumbeat dancing, or especially swapping

and so the demon Lady Luck clamps down her teeth,
tightening her grip right where it hurts.

How to Self-Study DBT (or Anything Else!)

DBT, or Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is a set of skills ordinarily taught to people with Borderline Personality Disorder or other similar emotion regulation problems. If your emotions rule your life, DBT is for you!

DBT is usually taught through an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), but many people find this hard to access for a variety of reasons. Maybe you work full time, or maybe your insurance won’t cover it. Either way, there are significant reasons why people who can’t access a formal training program may want to self-study DBT.

A note: I am not the expert on self-studying DBT. I am still in the process myself, and often forget to apply skills when I need them. However, this is what I’ve learned about self-studying DBT, and self-studying in general, so far!

Here’s some basic tips on how to self-study DBT:

Get clear on your goals and motivations.

Experts say that it’s important to set goals for self-study. Your goal is probably to learn how to apply DBT skills in your daily life— that’s pretty clear.

In my opinion, motivations are more important for this one. Maybe you feel motivated to learn DBT skills by thinking about all the times you yelled at your spouse when you were frustrated. Maybe you want to be happier and less moody.

Write these down somewhere so you can keep them in mind when studying gets tough!

Learn how you learn best.

Everyone has a different learning style. Some people prefer learning via video, while others like to read. Almost everyone learns quite well by practicing skills themselves and being allowed to make, and account for, mistakes. Reflect on your learning style and what has worked for you in the past (or take a quiz online!) and then remember to apply your learning style throughout your learning journey.

Read about the skills, one at a time.

Reading about the individual skills in the DBT repertoire may provide a helpful introduction, regardless of your learning style. and are both helpful if you’re looking to read about DBT.

Next, watch videos.

Once you’ve zoomed in on the skill you’re going to learn today or this week, watch some YouTube videos on the subject. While there didn’t used to be a ton of DBT video content, there is now! Videos might have helpful asides and tangents that you might not get from a straight-forward reading, and learning from different sources can provide different points of view that you may not have thought of.

Get the workbook.

The DBT workbook, also known as the Green Book, is super great for learning DBT, especially if your learning style is more experiential. The Green Book takes you through activities that will help you learn and apply DBT skills, while also making them personal to YOU.

Get the DBT card deck.

This is another purchase that may help you significantly when it comes to learning DBT skills. Made by the same people as the Green Book, this set of 52 cards can help you nail down your knowledge. Every day (or week!), shuffle the deck and draw a card. This is your DBT skill to focus on. I find the cards helpful because not only can they provide insight that you hadn’t thought of (like applying a certain skill to a certain situation that may not be intuitive) but they help you cut down on the overwhelm of trying to remember and apply so many skills at the same time. One day, one skill. That’s it.

If you can’t get the official DBT cards, you could make your own! These could be similar to the original deck, with one skill per card that you draw when you need help, or they could be like flashcards.

Find a group to discuss DBT concepts with.

If there are other people in your life who want to learn DBT, make a DBT study group and learn together! The DBT self help subreddit might help if there’s no one in your life who is also interested in DBT.

Explain DBT to trusted loved ones as you go.

You may not be able to find someone who wants to learn alongside you, but explaining what you’ve learned to someone you trust to listen can be very helpful! Allow them to ask questions to really test your knowledge.

Quiz yourself.

Quizzing yourself is a classic learning method that really holds up. This method requires you to recall information as you learn it, encouraging the routes in your brain to form in useful ways.

You can use physical flashcards or digital flashcard resources like the Anki app. The Anki app has the advantage of automatically practicing with “spaced repetition,” which is a method that helps you cement your learning by practicing trickier questions over the course of your learning journey.

Journal about your progress.

It’s important to reflect on your learning journey, both for deeper understanding of the subjects you’re learning about, and because it can help you remember what you’ve learned.

This could be digital or on paper.

Ask yourself questions like:

-What did I learn today?

-How do I feel about what I learned?

-What does this new information remind me of?

-What questions do I have for future research?

-How did I apply what I learned today?

-How can I apply what I learned today in the future?

-How did I apply what I’ve learned so far on my learning journey?

Try to remain consistent in your efforts.

If you watch 12 hours of DBT videos in one day, you probably won’t retain any information. Likewise, if you don’t practice for weeks, you might lose any progress you’ve already made. You may want to schedule self-directed “class” time every week, or simply plan out what you’re going to study for the next month or so.

Good luck studying!

Just Show Up

If you struggle with anxiety, overwhelm, or just plain feeling like a failure, I have a mantra for you that’s been really helping me out lately:

Just show up.

My biggest problem has always been depression. I’ve had to acknowledge that I am disabled by my mental health problems, and for an honor-roll student, that was often a struggle to accept.

In college, I used to skip class almost every day because the whole process was so overwhelming to my depressed and anxious brain: I had to get dressed in something clean (even though I never had the energy to do laundry), walk the 45 minutes to school, sit in class for up to three hours, PLUS pay attention, take notes, participate in discussion, and end up with an A at the end of the semester.

I didn’t realize that I was being a perfectionist, and life would have been a lot easier for me if I had Just Shown Up. By staying home because of my depression and anxiety, I wasn’t giving myself the chance to meet any of the expectations I had saddled myself with. I was so stressed out about being a “bad” or average student that I stopped being a student at all.

The Just Show Up philosophy isn’t the same as lowering your standards. You’re not suddenly off the hook for all your responsibilities. Instead, this is a mantra that will help you stay realistic and grounded. By Just Showing Up, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to grow and do your best without enforcing any of the guilt, overwhelm, or anxiety that comes along with expecting perfection at all times. Don’t think too far ahead. Just put on your shoes and Show Up.

The great thing about Just Show Up is that once you do, you will often find yourself doing quite well anyways– it’s something that you were capable of all along, but were too keyed up (or otherwise symptomatic) to envision. If you really can’t do a particular task, then at least you did something just by showing up. Think of all your activities like an hourly job: if you’re there, you get paid, even if you’re not always meeting your too-high expectations. People can’t be “on” all the time, and the Just Show Up philosophy recognizes that without letting bad behavior slide. In other words, nobody’s perfect.

Often, when I would apply Just Show Up and go to my college classes– sometimes in my pajamas– I would find that I was interested enough in the material to pay attention and take some notes. I was passionate enough about the topics to participate in the discussion. At the very least, I didn’t get points off my grade for another absence. Sure, I spent some time doodling due to attention span issues, but for the most part, I had succeeded just as well as the other students. I had minimized the task in my head from a mountain to a molehill. I didn’t overwhelm myself. I did exactly what I was capable of at that moment.

If you’re having trouble getting something done, Just Show Up. You don’t have to be employee of the month. You don’t have to be valedictorian. Just Show Up.