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Disability Action Center NW


By Hannah Adira, an Adult Woman with Autism

Stimming in public can be scary. The looks that people give you and their judgments. Some may even verbally comment on what you are doing. Others may say that you should act your age. Even family, not just strangers, can do these things.

As an adult woman who started their journey when they were still in elementary school learning to be more open in public about my stimming has been difficult. This is something that took my being accepted into Evergreen State College to fully understand what it means to stim in public. I tend to hold it in or not do it as visibly. This hurt. It gave me physical pain and emotional distress. Now that I am in a more accepting environment, people are less likely to judge me and it is giving me a chance to explore what it means to stim in public. Yes, I still get looks and judgments silently, but it is less likely to happen. This is why acceptance is so important.

The understanding that I got in a college that has a high population with those with disabilities has helped me greatly. This is an alternative college and not a traditional setting. I have been able to bring my stuffed animals to class and hold them and snuggle with them to help with my anxiety, no one cares. I carry around a sensory tool kit in my bag and openly use them on the table. While a space like this may be limited depending on where you live, they still exist. Finding one could be very helpful for you to learn what it feels like to stim in public in front of others you may not know.

Now that I was able to experience such an accepting environment, I have been able to stim more at stores and other businesses as well as school. Finding a safe environment outside of home was difficult. It took years not only for me to accept who I was and that I could not function in the stereotypical society. Learning skills and tricks to be successful in a world that was not designed for me was stressful but in the end, it gave me hope.

I am now looking towards the future as an environmental scientist and creative writer. I am also a big youth advocate for those with disabilities not only in my area, but also statewide, and I have gone to national conferences such as APRIL – Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living. During these events, I stim openly which has given those who were unsure if they could have an opportunity to be themselves. Through my journey, I have gained confidence which I hope to pass on to you. Your dreams are not impossible and your disabilities, which may give you struggles, are not a deterrent to being successful in what you want.

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