How to End the Stigma of Stimming at Work

Rachel Worsley  |  28/01/2024

Autistic people should take the lead in educating their neurotypical work colleagues about stimming to end the stigma of stimming at work, according to new Indian research. The study, published in the journal Autism in Adulthood, interviewed 15 autistic people employed in mostly neurotypical workplaces, as well as a focus group of 5 other autistic people.

Here are the key questions that the study covered about stimming at work.

1. What does stimming involve?

It involves repetitive bodily movements such as rocking, hand flapping, twiddling fingers, shaking legs, playing with pens, pulling of hair and grunting.

2. What are the benefits of stimming?

It reduces stress caused by a work environment that jars the senses of the work environment, the demands placed on them by managers and colleagues, complex tasks at work and intrusive thoughts. Stimming can serve as an outlet for pent-up emotions and help with emotional regulation. It can also improve mental clarity and productivity.

3. What are the repercussions of suppressing stims at work?

There’s an impact on mental health, productivity and stress levels.

4. How is stimming stigmatised in the workplace?

Autistic people felt embarrassment, resentment, anger and belittlement when told not to stim. Neurotypical managers often think autistic people’s stimming behaviour was strange, unprofessional and childish. In one case of an autistic person, their parents put chilli paste on their lips to prevent them from stimming.

5. How has Covid-19 helped with stims?

Work from home arrangements has allowed free stimming of the legs, thighs and lips for some autistic people.

6. How can we promote acceptance of stimming at work?

Autism awareness or sensitivity training is suggested to promote acceptance. A designated room for stimming in the workplace was also raised as a possibility, although not all autistic people agreed with this as a solution.

Summary

Acceptance and acknowledgement of stimming behaviours at work could help normalise stimming in public places. Autistic people must take the lead to share information about stimming to their neurotypical peers. This would help to increase awareness about the visible manifestation of unique traits of autistic individuals among nonautistics and deepen their understanding of stimming, thereby freeing autistic individuals from social ostracism when they display autistic behaviours. 

Find the original research here.

Stay updated on the latest resources from Neurodiversity Media. Sign up to the free NeuroWork Newsletter today: