Recommendations For When You Need To “Pass”

photo of red admiral
A red admiral butterfly is perched above a flower. Its wings are partly open as if getting ready to flap. The background is soft greensand browns and is out of focus.

Here LAST members have compiled a list of less conspicuous stims that we like to use. Not every stim will work for every person or situation. If you are Autistic and want to add a suggestion for a stim that works for you, please feel free to contact us.

In an ideal world people would be able to stim without being perceived as weird and being openly Autistic would be just another difference, with no negative perception attached. Unfortunately there are still some situations where “passing” as neurotypical makes things easier.

Remember that you are under no obligation to make yourself look less Autistic just for other people’s comfort. If you are comfortable stimming visibly, go for it, the way you move is beautiful. Use these more “discreet” stims as much or as little as you want, based on whether they make you feel more comfortable in a given situation.

List of ‘Discrete” Stims:

Pressure stimming. – This can be as simple as pressing your thumb into your wrist or arm with a firm, even pressure. Because it doesn’t involve a lot of movement, most people won’t notice. It’s good for people who like deep pressure.

Tight or heavy clothing or bracelets. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it can be another way of getting sensory feedback from deep pressure. Different styles work for different people, and there are options out there that don’t look “therapeutic”. For instance someone might have trouble with tight fitting spandex clothing, but like the feeling of a heavy jacket in a fabric with a nice texture; one person might feel comfortable wearing a binder, while another finds it too restrictive. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what works best for you.

Carrying small weights, or stones. If you like weight, but can’t find heavy clothing that is comfortable for you, you can try caring small weights or stones in your pockets. Many people, both Autistic and non-autistic carry things like worry stones.

Discreet stimming jewellery. Some companies make spinner rings, or chewable jewellery that looks like ordinary jewellery.

Apply lotion, hand sanitizer, or lip balm. This can be a good excuse to rub your hands or arms without drawing a lot of attention.

Chew gum, or suck on hard candies.

Quietly clicking your teeth or tongue without opening your mouth. If you are in a place where there is a little bit of background noise already, these sounds are unlikely to be overheard by others if you keep your lips closed, and they can be used as a discreet auditory stim.

Rubbing your thumb over an eraser or other object or carrying a kneadable eraser. Never underestimate the usefulness of everyday objects. Kneadable erasers can be found in most art supply stores.

Knitting or crochet. This won’t work for every context, but in situations where knitting is allowed you get the benefit of something to keep your hands busy, and people will tend to see you as being creative and productive. The only draw back to this one is that sometimes people will ask you about the project you are working on.

Wearing a watch or pocket watch that ticks. The ticking can be an auditory stim. If you don’t like the feeling of a watch on your wrist, a pocket watch makes a stylish alternative.

Figit with the hem of a shirt or sleave.

Listening to music with headphones. This won’t work for every situation, but few people will think twice about someone listening to music as they are traveling on the bus or doing their shopping. It has the added benefit of sending a message that you aren’t open to conversation with strangers.

Watching a video on your phone. Again, this won’t work for every situation, but visual stimming videos can be easily found online, and taking a few minutes to duck out an watch one can help manage stress.