Help for autistic teens and adults How can I help my child?

Aids to make stimming fun and easy

autism koosh ball

In our post on stimming, we explore what it is, why it’s useful and how it works. Stimming is something that helps to calm the nerves for many autistic people of all ages, coming in handy in just about any situation where stress or sensory issues worsen.

While in order to stim, you don’t necessarily need an object. Some stim by clicking their fingers, twiddling their hair or rocking back and forth. If the autistic person if your life stims with their hands, a little aid can prove useful. Here, we talk about the different products you can stim with, from specialist stim toys to everyday items you might find around the house.

Tangled up in you

The most well-known form of stimming aid is the tangle toy. They are usually sold online or at autism exhibitions like The Autism Show for under £5. Tangle toys are typically made from curved pieces of plastic that stick together.

They come in many different colours and some are coated in felt to feel a little kinder on young hands. If you or your autistic relative fidgets frequently, tangle toys are among the best things you can buy for them without breaking the bank.

Stress balls

Often used in office environments by people in stressful jobs, stress balls are great for stimming, particularly when angry. The squeezable nature of a stress ball helps to release all the energy that comes from feeling angry.

Like tangle toys, stress balls represent good value for money. If you go to something like an autism fair or job fair, there’s every chance that you could pick up a stress ball for free from one of the stalls. Otherwise, you can pick one up for under £2.

More balls

Stress balls aren’t the only round-shaped stimming toys available. You can pick up balls that light up, balls that bounce and balls that are coated in soft spikes – ones that resemble little rubbery pom-poms.

If you’re looking in a specialist shop, it’s worth going with the person you’re buying the balls for. Let them have a feel of what’s available and see if they like the texture or not. If they do, go ahead and buy! Again, these aren’t too expensive, costing anywhere between £5 and £10.

A personal favourite of mine is the Koosh ball (pictured above). These have a small rubbery core and are covered in long, elastic strands. These have an added sensory quality that feel great in the hands and when thrown against a hard surface.

Chewies

Aimed at younger children, chewies are for autistic kids who have a habit of chewing on clothes, stationery and toys. These can help with teething, as well as helping to relieve anger and keep kids’ clothes intact!

Chewies tend to be a little more expensive than other stim toys. A typical one, worn around the neck, will cost around £7 to £10, depending on where you buy them from. They can come in the form of a necklace, as a toy or even a bracelet. Be sure to take a look at different chewies before picking one.

Bean bags

A classic classroom staple, small bean bags have sensory qualities that make them ideal for stimming. Their texture and feel give them a therapeutic edge, helping to calm the senses when needed.

Usually, they come as part of a multipack (Sensory Direct sell animal-shaped bean bags for a little under £7). However, they can prove useful throughout childhood and work for kneading, squeezing and even throwing against a wall (within reason).

Around the home

While much of what we’ve mentioned can only usually be found from specialist online retailers, you might be surprised to find cheap or even free stimming aids around the home! From your home office to the kitchen drawer, there are a few things to stim with in a safe, fun way.

Starting with stationery, blu-tak is really good for fidgeting. If you clump a load of bits together into a ball, your child can shape it into anything they like. They can knead, pull, push, twist or roll it to their heart’s content, all without having to spend a penny.

Some autistic children and adults like to stim by clicking a pen or, in a few cases, a retractable pencil. Again, if you have any pens lying around the home, find one. If they like the sound and feel of clicking a pen, let them click away.

Finally, rubber bands are ideal for pulling and twiddling. Again, these are pretty cheap, but be sure to use the thicker ones rather than the thin ones that tend to snap easily. Perhaps a ball made of rubber bands could work, as it can be bounced and pulled apart.

That’s a wrap!

Elsewhere in the home or the office, bubble wrap is a classic stimming aid that’s cheap. If you’ve got any lying around, hand it to your child if they’re bored or need something to help them relax. A note of caution though – the popping sound can be a bit harsh on some ears.

As we’ve discussed, there are so many stimming aids available to make it fun and easy. From the most colourful tangle toy to the contents of your desk, there’s so much that can be used without costing a fortune.

About the author

Luke Aylward

Luke Aylward

Luke is an Aspie copywriter and designer based in Leeds. He's the chairman of a local support group and enjoys providing accessible info around all things autism.

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