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 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 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.