Let’s start off with the obvious question: I don’t own one. Fidget spinners distract me rather than help me, as they do for a lot of people. Fidget toys only really work for people with specific issues regarding energy and staying focused, and they’re ones I don’t have.
That being said, using a fidget spinner or similar toy can provide for necessary stimulation, be it with the hands or sound or what have you. This is actually quite popular online: watching things get made, paint mixing videos, slime and kinetic sand and all those things can all be considered pleasant visual stimulations for Autistic people, more commonly known as stimming.
So what’s stimming?
Basically, it’s anything stimulating that provides pleasure or energy to the person engaging with it. It exists in the non-Autistic world to an extent; ever seen an “oddly satisfying” compilation and just felt pleasant afterward? It’s like that, or at least it is for me with visual stims.
That’s not to say stims are just related to videos. They can be a sound, a smell, or something purely physical. The most common/well known form of stimming is hand-flapping. Personally, it’s never done anything special for me, but that’s just my experience. And that’s not to say I don’t have physical stims – I do.
When I’m stuck in a writing rut, or have an idea and feel stuck with it, I will get up and walk around my house. Up and down the stairs, in circles, I will walk and walk (usually listening to music) until my thoughts are going as fast as I am, and once I’ve moved a satisfactory amount, I’ll sit back down and get back to what I was doing. I can’t explain why it helps, it just does. I feel better, more energized, when I’m walking, and then I can sit back down and get back to what I was doing. It’s like recharging my mental/emotional battery.
The only other stim I have, one that seems to be pretty common, is music. Listening to the same song repeatedly is something I like doing; when I say repeatedly, I’m talking upwards of 15 times or more. Just the same song, over and over, or the same two or three back and forth. I like the rhythm of it, getting used to the same beats and tempos, noticing new things about the song with each listen.
(Before you ask, I have not done this with ‘What’s New Pussycat”, and I’m too afraid that “It’s Not Unusual” will manifest after the seventh play to try.)
The important thing to note it that, like with everything else, everyone stims differently. I like music and walking, and playing with slime occasionally; some people flap their hands, some sing, some watch stim videos or listen to ASMR. It’s like a grab bag of experiences, you never know what might be a stim for somebody.
That being said, if you ever meet me in real life, please, please do not offer me a fidget spinner. They do not work for me, I have tried them, it’s a mess waiting to happen.