To this day, my father still asks me if I am playing my “GameBoy.”
After learning what the stim is an adult, I understand that I was self stimulating myself by playing my GameBoy as a kid. My parents did not understand why I played my GameBoy or the Nintendo they got my sister and I all the time.
As a child growing up being at family gatherings, I was taught to put that GameBoy away and be more present amongst family. I could play with the other kids. On the other hand, the dinner table was a bit too much because I could not latch onto one conversation and felt left out.
When I was playing the drums for my first real band, I did not exactly fit in unless I was on the stage being part of a band. I could put myself in a social environment, but conversations were not exactly my thing. You could talk to me, but I would end up becoming disinterested in the conversation someone would try having with me. My bandmates were asked why I behaved the way I behaved.
I spent six months living on my own in London, with five of it spent in Romford. I took myself out to the local pub, The Victoria Pub. I met a man who called me “Freakin’ Jesus” (I look like Jesus with my hair down). As I got to the know the locals, it finally hit me that I just do not like small talk. Small talk is not my thing. I can do it to a point. At that point, I really need stimulation to keep me where I am at, so I would pull out my KenKen book.
KenKen is a sudoku-like puzzle game.
KenKen uses math as the clue to what goes where. My father started me out at brown belt difficulty. I asked him why he was starting me out so high to get this response: “You are smarter than me.”
When I am not getting the stimulation I need from small talk, I pull out my KenKen because it stimulates me.
I would find my own place in the pub to drink my beer and do my KenKen book. I still hung out with people. I just put myself around people who accepted me for who I was and let me do my thing amongst them. I got more social conversations when I would karaoke depending on the song.
When I went to a new local pub, I repeated my routine of getting my beer and finding my one spot to do my KenKen. I found one next to the pool table where I could watch the game from time to time. The locals wandered around their pub and got to know me because I was a new face. They accepted me for who I was and let me do my thing. I still made friends who would converse with me.
I accomplished being in a social environment and finding my opportunities to create new relationships even when I stimmed in public.
I grew up learning not to play my “GameBoy” when around people. This is the beginning of learning when and where it is acceptable to socially stim. On the other hand, regular conversation does not stimulate me. I can do small talk to a point, where I must do something to self stimulate myself. I ended up stimming in a country that is not my own around people that I do not know, but stimming in a public place opened my world.
This is why I think we should be more open about letting people with autism stim in social environments, if the person can be in an environment with too many conversations that can be heard simultaneously. By stimming in public, we are capable of getting the social interaction and bond with people over what we stim from, whether it be over a game of chess, poker, cribbage, video games, and so on. If the person with autism is playing a video game on a Switch, another person with a Switch could pull theirs out and play at the same time.
The autistic stim can be regarded as something that is unwanted, but we can also look at it as a means to get social interaction plus more. In other words… instead of trying to make us fit into a neurotypical world, letting us be who we are is going to open our world anyways.