Just Stimming…

A land we can share (a place I can map)

Quiet Hands

with 191 comments

TW: Ableism, abuse

Explaining my reaction to this:

means I need to explain my history with this:

quiet hands

quiet hands

1.

When I was a little girl, they held my hands down in tacky glue while I cried.

2.

I’m a lot bigger than them now. Walking down a hall to a meeting, my hand flies out to feel the texture on the wall as I pass by.

“Quiet hands,” I whisper.

My hand falls to my side.

3.

When I was six years old, people who were much bigger than me with loud echoing voices held my hands down in textures that hurt worse than my broken wrist while I cried and begged and pleaded and screamed.

4.

In a classroom of language-impaired kids, the most common phrase is a metaphor.

“Quiet hands!”

A student pushes at a piece of paper, flaps their hands, stacks their fingers against their palm, pokes at a pencil, rubs their palms through their hair. It’s silent, until:

“Quiet hands!”

I’ve yet to meet a student who didn’t instinctively know to pull back and put their hands in their lap at this order. Thanks to applied behavioral analysis, each student learned this phrase in preschool at the latest, hands slapped down and held to a table or at their sides for a count of three until they learned to restrain themselves at the words.

The literal meaning of the words is irrelevant when you’re being abused.

5.

When I was a little girl, I was autistic. And when you’re autistic, it’s not abuse. It’s therapy.

6.

Hands are by definition quiet, they can’t talk, and neither can half of these students…

(Behavior is communication.)

(Not being able to talk is not the same as not having anything to say.)

Things, slowly, start to make a lot more sense.

7.

Roger needs a modified chair to help him sit. It came to the classroom fully equipped with straps to tie his hands down.

We threw the straps away. His old school district used them.

He was seven.

8.

Terra can read my flapping better than my face. “You’ve got one for everything,” she says, and I wish everyone could look at my hands and see I need you to slow down or this is the best thing ever or can I please touch or I am so hungry I think my brain is trying to eat itself.

But if they see my hands, I’m not safe.

“They watch your hands,” my sister says, “and you might as well be flipping them off when all you’re saying is this menu feels nice.”

9.

When we were in high school, my occasional, accidental flap gave my other autistic friend panic attacks.

10.

I’ve been told I have a manual fixation. My hands are one of the few places on my body that I usually recognize as my own, can feel, and can occasionally control. I am fascinated by them. I could study them for hours. They’re beautiful in a way that makes me understand what beautiful means.

My hands know things the rest of me doesn’t. They type words, sentences, stories, worlds that I didn’t know I thought. They remember passwords and sequences I don’t even remember needing. They tell me what I think, what I know, what I remember. They don’t even always need a keyboard for that.

My hands are an automatic feedback loop, touching and feeling simultaneously. I think I understand the whole world when I rub my fingertips together.

When I’m brought to a new place, my fingers tap out the walls and tables and chairs and counters. They skim over the paper and make me laugh, they press against each other and remind me that I am real, they drum and produce sound to remind me of cause-and-effect. My fingers map out a world and then they make it real.

My hands are more me than I am.

11.

But I’m to have quiet hands.

12.

I know. I know.

Someone who doesn’t talk doesn’t need to be listened to.

I know.

Behavior isn’t communication. It’s something to be controlled.

I know.

Flapping your hands doesn’t do anything for you, so it does nothing for me.

I know.

I can control it.

I know.

If I could just suppress it, you wouldn’t have to do this.

I know.

They actually teach, in applied behavioral analysis, in special education teacher training, that the most important, the most basic, the most foundational thing is behavioral control. A kid’s education can’t begin until they’re “table ready.”

I know.

I need to silence my most reliable way of gathering, processing, and expressing information, I need to put more effort into controlling and deadening and reducing and removing myself second-by-second than you could ever even conceive, I need to have quiet hands, because until I move 97% of the way in your direction you can’t even see that’s there’s a 3% for you to move towards me.

I know.

I need to have quiet hands.

I know. I know.

13.

There’s a boy in the supermarket, rocking back on his heels and flapping excitedly at a display. His mom hisses “quiet hands!” and looks around, embarrassed.

I catch his eye, and I can’t do it for myself, but my hands flutter at my sides when he’s looking.

(Flapping is the new terrorist-fist-bump.)

14.

Let me be extremely fucking clear: if you grab my hands, if you grab the hands of a developmentally disabled person, if you teach quiet hands, if you work on eliminating “autistic symptoms” and “self-stimulatory behaviors,” if you take away our voice, if you…

if you…

if you…

15.

Then I…

I…

.

Written by Julia

October 5, 2011 at 2:36 am

Posted in ableism, autism, glee, personal

191 Responses

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  1. I love this. thank you for sharing.

    outrunning the storm

    October 5, 2011 at 9:17 am

  2. I love this post. It’s why I’ve never tried to control how my son moves his body, expresses himself through his movements. It’s why I’ve never learned the phrase ‘quiet hands’ and have never told my son to stop flapping, jumping, hopping, dancing, or talking. It’s why I’d rather homeschool him than get him ‘table ready.’ Just because it looks different doesn’t make it wrong. Thank you for sharing this story. It should be passed around to everyone.

    Mama Be Good (@mamabegood)

    October 5, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    • Your methods are a beacon for special education everywhere. My step-mom was an early-childhood special ed teacher, and she did the exact same thing as you do. Instead of curbing the tendencies of autistic children, she would try to use their behaviors to teach them.

      Eliana Berkoff

      February 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm

  3. In my school it was “sit on your hands”.

    Amanda

    October 5, 2011 at 4:21 pm

  4. After reading this I find myself so very VERY happy that I have never asked my son to be silent. His motions, though few, help him understand the world don’t they? Thank you for sharing this!

  5. It’s stuff like this that actually makes me thankful occasionally that I wasn’t diagnosed as a child.

    chavisory

    October 6, 2011 at 9:45 am

  6. This post gives me chills, I never knew such “treatment” was the standard. I might actually be better off not having been treated as a youngster, if that’s what’s done. Most of the pain in my life has come from trying not to display symptoms of autism in public.

    Scott Beam

    October 8, 2011 at 8:28 pm

  7. Even not having been diagnosed as a child, many autistic behaviors were trained or traumatized out of me by social stigma and castigation from individuals close to me. The levels of self-monitoring I have adopted directly impacts my emotional and physical health. Re-adopting “Stimming” type behaviors which come naturally to me has been arduous, but helpful to mitigating my near-disastrous stress levels.

    girljanitor

    October 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    • i hear you…

      selenedepackh

      November 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    • Me too! I also wasn’t diagnosed but people would tell me to stop stimming so instead I started biting my lip and scratching my head until it bled. I lose out on a lot of productivity since I can’t think when I don’t stim. It drives my stress levels through the roof.

      Twitchy Woman

      November 14, 2011 at 3:19 pm

  8. [...] a violence I still can’t talk about, in the [...]

  9. Thought of you the other day…I was in a crowded GAP store and saw a little girl flapping her heart out. And no one telling her not to.

    chavisory

    October 18, 2011 at 11:29 pm

  10. Mmmm hmmmmmmmm!!!!!!!!!

    Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone

    October 20, 2011 at 6:15 pm

  11. [...] Quiet Hands appears here by permission. [...]

  12. Wow….as a special education teacher, I have certainly used ‘quiet hands/mouth/feet’ before with kiddos. Our intentions are obviously meant to help not to hurt, but this sounds like learning to be table ready and have quiet hands was torture for you. I would love to know if you have suggestions for teachers, perhaps an alternative way to know the kiddo is dialed in and learning without having to stop the stimming. Sometimes the lack of knowledge, even in the community of special education is alarming. I co-teach kindergarten, and while watching the children play, I noticed one child stimming with a car in front of his eyes, and pointed it out to the other teacher as it was the first time I had seen this behavior, and she looked at me confused…and asked, in all honesty, “what’s stimming?” I was shocked…here was a supposed educator of a class of 11, with 8 having a diagnosis of PDD/autism and she didn’t know what that was…needless to say I will not be teaching with her next year. Any advice on ‘quiet hands’ alternitives would be greatly appreciaated!

    Kursten Payne

    November 11, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    • I understand that since stimmy behavior in neurotypical kids generally means they’re goofing off or not paying attention, it’s tempting to interpret it the same way in autistic kids. But that’s not the case, and often stimming is even a sign that they’re paying attention and processing information. I actually can’t think without stimming, so inhibiting stims will actually make me less able to “dial in” and process information, not more.

      It helps to get to know what each kid’s stims mean. For me, stims that are really complex and absorbing can divert my attention away from other things, but stims that are just interesting enough to occupy my hands will help me concentrate. When I’m trying to concentrate on a lecture or something, I like to play with putty, squishy balls, string, etc. I have a bit of a U-shaped curve where I stim a lot when bored, not so much when I’m mildly interested, and then start stimming more again when I’m really thinking hard. Each person is different though.

      For a more comprehensive view I’d search online for tips that autistic individuals give each other. People with ADHD, trichotillomania, and tics also can have tips on finding good “fidgets” that translate pretty well to autistic kids, since all of these seem to be in part driven by a need for sensory input.

      Twitchy Woman

      November 14, 2011 at 3:38 pm

      • While I am not on the Spectrum myself. I would have to agree. My boys stim when necessary. I think (Also, curious for feedback on whether or not I might be correct). It usually mean that they are paying attention, not the other way around. How many of us “NT” people bite our nails while listening to someone speak or while reading etc. It’s just another stim. I suspect (and here is where I need input) that it gives my boys something concrete and in their control to focus on, which allows them to dull the background static, thus allowing them to hear my words more effectively. Also? It just makes them feel good! I would never take that away from them. It is also when they are excited. It is the most AMAZING expression of pure unadulterated joy. I love every flap. Until I am holding him and get one to the face :) LOL

        sockmommy

        December 20, 2011 at 10:06 am

    • I raised 2 kids with ADHD. My daughter’s 1st grade teacher was concerned because she was always moving – under the desk, on top of the desk, inside her shirt, twisting, wiggling, putting math manipulatives in her mouth (“something a 3 year old would do!”), etc. But after the 1st grading period, the teacher said, “I’m amazed at how much she’s learned, considering her behavior.” She was on grade level. Even as a college student, she has to get a certain adrenaline rush going (usually brought on by procrastination) in order to complete big assignments, just like her dear old mom! ;-)

      saragrits

      May 21, 2012 at 10:35 pm

  13. Wow. I had no idea. I am sorry. Thank you for educating me. My son doesn’t get ABA, but his behaviorist (who was ABA trained) uses that phrase. But, he doesn’t use it when my son is stimming: he uses it when my son is using his hands to be aggressive. I don’t like the phrase though because I think it’s imprecise. I use “gentle hands” instead. My son doesn’t flap a lot, just when he’s super excited, so it makes me happy to see because I know when he’s doing it, he’s happy.

    Maya (@MarfMom)

    November 14, 2011 at 11:55 am

    • Wow… do you think you could convince the behaviorist to adopt your language? Because I’d hate for your son to encounter anti-stimming quiet hands and have that categorized in the same group as violent behavior…

      Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone

      November 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm

  14. Just because a person is not looking at you and/or sitting still does NOT mean they are not paying attention.

    Jocelyn (@HDCautism)

    November 14, 2011 at 11:59 am

  15. Thank you so much for your honesty and courage. You write beautifully, every word carries your sincerity, your kindness, your anger, and your strength.

    kathleen duey (@kdueykduey)

    November 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm

  16. Well SAID.

    Cynthia Gregory

    November 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm

  17. Well, obviously it was you who lacked empathy. Don’t you know how it made the teacher ~feel~ when you, as a child, didn’t ~look~ normal in her classroom? Or something like that…ask Dr. Cohen, the expert.

    Thank God for people like you who can speak the damage done to children.

    usethebrainsgodgiveyou

    November 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm

  18. maybe if we all flap hard enough we can get a wind started…

    selenedepackh

    November 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm

  19. Love this post! I can’t imagine being treated that way that young :( Sorry you had to go through that. It drives me absolutely crazy the way some people treat autistic kids :/

    I do think that little animated image is a different situation, though, looks like the lady is upset and the guy is trying to comfort her.

    TMBMT

    November 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    • Just FYI, the woman in the image is diagnosed OCD and, if memory serves, she’s going into a hand-rubbing/praying ritual after an extremely stressful event that her boyfriend (the man in the picture) caused. He’s trying to stop her from rubbing.

      M Dubz

      January 17, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      • I’m aware. I’m a big Glee fan, as you can see from my blog, and wrote this as a response to that scene. This is exactly what I’m talking about.

        Julia

        January 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm

  20. Wow. This really hit a chord with me. I have 2 sons on the severe end of the autism spectrum and one of them is a very prolific hand flapper. You have completely opened my eyes…Thank you for that!

  21. I’m flapping with you! My son has Autism and I NEVER, EVER stop him from ‘stimming’, in fact I join in! There are no quiet hands in my house :-) xxxxxxxx

  22. My hands are more me than I am. My hands are more me than I am. My hands are more me than I am. My hands are more me than I am. Oh yeah. I am a musician, an organist, a pianist, a recorder player, used to be a guitar player, I am an artist, I am a writer/typer. My hands are more me than I am. Quiet hands? NO. This is how I communicate. Everything.

    Paula C. Durbin-Westby

    November 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    • Paula – I LOVE your comment because that’s almost exactly what i thought when I read that. I am a writer, a claysmith, an artist, a painter, a cook, a friend…my hands are more me than I am….absolutely.

      This story is incredibly powerful and I plan to pass it along to all of my friends and volunteers :) Thanks so much for sharing with us.

      suetatem

      November 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm

  23. That video makes me feel anxious, like I can’t breathe.

    Paula C. Durbin-Westby

    November 14, 2011 at 5:36 pm

  24. Wow. Wow. Wow. I can’t think of anything to say except Wow.

    My son is a flapper, also a jumper. To be honest I’ve never even heard of “quiet hands” before I read this. I would never think of asking him to stop (except for when he accidentally hits me or his brother in the face) but having this insight is SO incredible.

    Wow. Thank you.

    Jill (@jillsmo)

    November 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm

  25. I have a non-neurotypical child who flaps. She isn’t autistic. She’s ADD plus some other stuff, but still, I confess to asking her not to flap her hands when talking to me. I *can’t* talk to her when she’s distracting me, any more than I can hear her when there’s a radio or TV going in the room. Maybe I’m not “neurotypical” either. She wants me to hear her. She wants me to be able to focus on her. I’ve asked her to please clasp her hands in front of her instead so people can focus on her face. She does, but she hunches up like she’s cold – or beaten down. I wish I could tune out the flapping and focus on her. I can’t. I turn off the TV and radio so I can hear her. She has to turn off the hands so I can see her.

    Angela Beegle (@chotiari)

    November 14, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    • She might not be able to talk to you at all if she “turns off the hands.”

      chavisory

      November 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    • Sounds like a competing set of access needs- she needs to stim, and for you her type of stimming is an attention grabber- have you done the adult ADD checklist? because that’s what your description of how flapping and TV and radio and so on sounds like to me… Like an adult who adapted and self accommodated for ADD! And for bonus points, since you already know a little about some of the tips and tricks about ADD you ccan start applying some of them to your own life… if you haven’t already that is. (If you are finding yourself having other attention issues to the point of interfering with your life, you may wish to ask your doctor for a referral to a psych who specializes in adult ADD….)

      My mother also has ADD (and Narcolepsy) and sometimes our access needs clash too. It’s less of an issue now that I am out of her house (half the week anyhow- until I find a place for my housing voucher, I’m spending half the week with her and half with my sister…) but her difficulties with time management clash with my need for a fixed schedule when we are doing things together. I have time management issues of my own, too… which is why the around about x time thing doesn’t work! I have to use an external measure for time, and when that doesn’t meet up with what she says it is melt down inducing! But it is not something she can help too much- she tries really hard, so I struggle to be sure to apologize if I say mean things afterwards, since I know it is an access issue.

      Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone

      November 14, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    • How about asking her to find an alternate stim that is not as distracting or to flap down by her sides? Fidget toys are god for this. Or, as a more dramatic measure, not looking at her when she talks? I understand that most non-autistic people find it hard to interact with people author looking at them, but it is a possible option to meet her halfway.

      Twitchy Woman

      November 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm

      • Amen. The fidget toys and modeling clay and squishy balls are fabulous. So are the Brain Gym exercises.

        specialmathmom

        December 1, 2011 at 9:17 pm

        • To ask an autistic of any age to CHANGE something is very difficult. Change is not something most of them tolerate and to change their patterns would be very upseting to their world. Yes, there are many things out there that can help them to modify thier movements, but, can someone who only speaks French, change and talk only in German? In time, and with age, many learn how to manage their stims. Most of the time, we really don’t know why they do certain things, but it is part of them and should not be stopped or changed. Those are my thoughts, and others may not agree. Each child is different. We just love them and accept them for who they are.

          Marla Wise Miller

          December 2, 2011 at 7:11 am

          • But it’s important to realize that it’s not that we can’t or won’t ever change anything…just that we probably can’t do it on demand, or immediately, just because someone else wants it. It’s not that you can’t ever ask an autistic person to change something about the way they do things, but realize that there is a good reason for the way we do things for ourselves, so there needs to be a good reason that a different way is better for us, that it’s going to take time, that it can’t be demanded, that it’s going to cost us both physical and mental energy (that we may or may not judge to be worth it), etc. We can often make changes, but they need to be worked toward, and in our own best interests, and not simply imposed or demanded.

            chavisory

            December 2, 2011 at 12:41 pm

        • For me, asking me to flap my hands down near my sides when I typically do it about halfway up my body (which is more ergonomically correct) is about the same as asking you to brush your teeth with the opposite hand, or only smile half a smile when you are really happy, or any other thing where you have to do something really awkward with your body.

          Paula C. Durbin-Westby

          December 2, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    • Angela: have you considered holding up a notebook or book to block the view of your daughter’s flapping while you look at her face when she is talking? Then you can both do what you need to in order to communicate. My son has Tourette’s and autism, and I have some symptoms of autism (notably oversensitivity to noise), and he sometimes has a teeth-snapping tic that hurts my head, so I wear ear plugs when he has that tic, and it works out.

      haddayr

      November 15, 2011 at 4:09 pm

  26. Wow. Wow. Wow. I cannot even begin to explain how much reading this means to me! I have a non-verbal son on the “severe” end of the spectrum and he’s got a gold medal in stimming. In all seriousness, it’s just something he does. Unless he’s being violent or destructive, I just let it go. It’s a part of him. I’ve never been a quiet hands sort of person myself. And besides, he uses his hands to communicate – he uses some signs.

    His old school was a quiet hands sort of place. His new school is not. I love his new school. Because they are letting him be himself while learning to express himself. They take the time to “listen” to him. I love them for that.

    Thank you for writing this. It is brave and informative. It gives me a teensy glimpse inside my son for the first time ever. And that’

    The Domestic Goddess

    November 14, 2011 at 8:15 pm

  27. [...] read this post Quiet Hands today.   Our ABA therapists don’t use those terms.   But it made me think that I need to [...]

  28. Phenomenal post. Wow.

    I am so, so glad I was not diagnosed as a child. Oh, dear God, so glad. I used to run my hands along the walls of my school, and play with my fingers, and suck on my shirt sleeve, and play with my hair, and no one gave me a hard time, because they just figured I was different, not sick.

    Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

    November 14, 2011 at 8:51 pm

  29. Just a note to thank you for teaching me about my own sons. What a gift you have written for all those living with ASD (especially the young and non-verbal) and their parents. I can’t imagine how many lives this is changing right now as we speak. It’s very powerful advocating, and I am grateful for your hands which typed this out, and your heart for sharing it.

    Heather Clark

    November 15, 2011 at 6:13 am

  30. Thank you for sharing this. Behavior IS communication.

    Applied Behavioral Strategies

    November 15, 2011 at 9:07 am

  31. ‘EnjoyHi5Autism’ is sharing with Developmental Disabilities, Special Needs Parents, Self-Advocates, Educators, and Families on our social networks and micro-blogs at https://www.facebook.com/EnjoyHi5Autism ; http://enjoyinghi5autism.blogspot.com ; https://twitter.com/#!/EnjoyHi5Autism

    KBJCosse' (@EnjoyHi5Autism)

    November 15, 2011 at 11:15 am

  32. That post is beautifully written, and really brings home the trauma of what you went through. What you experienced sounds undoubtedly like bad practice; of course all behaviour can be communication. In particular “stimming” is hugely important in emotional regulation and communication of emotions; and all good clinicians and educators should be aware of this. I am so sorry that you had this awful experience; I would love to be able to say that this kind of treatment no longer happens, but unfortunately there are far too many so-called ABA “practitioners” out there without the qualifications, the experience and most importantly the grounding in the scientific principles to be able to tailor strategies appropriately to individual needs. Thank you for sharing your story. From a fellow flapper, and Behaviour Analyst.

    juqu

    November 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm

  33. Someone asked if an alternate stim could be found. Sometimes an “alternate stim” is not going to work. Sometimes stims are just not interchangeable. I had someone tell me that my swaying from side to side made them feel seasick. Although I think that what that particular person was trying to say was that they did not want me to stim at all, I said I would try to transfer it to some other body part, so started wiggling my feet. But, sometimes I can’t transfer a stim, because it serves a function. In my family, sometimes our various stims get on each other’s nerves. We do not assume that one person’s needs take precedence over another’s. and, luckily, we can work it out a bit. Sometimes I will tell my son to stop doing something because it is interfering with my own needs, and then I think about it and decide that it won’t bother me if, for example, I put on my headphones. Or if, instead of waving something in my face, he waves it a bit further back so that I don’t feel I am being attacked! For the person whose child flapping is distracting them, maybe you could turn away a bit or even close your eyes for a minute, if that would cut out the flapping motion a bit. It should not always be up to the person with the stim to accommodate the person who is being annoyed. Since we all have various stims in my family, I am really aware of this.

    Paula C. Durbin-Westby

    November 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    • I think you may be talking about my comment, in which case thanks for adding this. I didn’t want to imply that “alternate stims” were always a possibility, but sometimes they are. I think alternate stims are a great thing to think about when it’s not actually hard to find one, or when the stim is actually self-injurious in some way (as many of mine have been). But it’s not always possible or worth it, so sometimes you have to have the other person make the accommodation (like by just dealing with it, maintaining distance, looking away, etc.).

      Also, in the case of the woman who couldn’t deal with her daughter’s stims, I am assuming she’s telling the truth that she actually can’t hear what her kid is saying when distracted by stims, which to me goes beyond annoyance… it’s not in the kid’s interest not to be heard.

      Twitchy Woman

      November 15, 2011 at 3:26 pm

  34. I wrote something on my Facebook page today, in response to an article about a symphony conductor who stopped a concert to ask a person with a disability to leave: “This is what I do not like about the whole “classical music” kind of atmosphere. One is supposed to sit still like a statue using only one’s ears to hear the music. If one is a performer, one is supposed to only move those body parts that do the actual noise-making. ;) I had all “extraneous” body motions (aka “stimming”?) trained out of me by various music teachers and sarcastic commenters. It has taken me decades to get back to anywhere near being able to feel the music and my body and I am not there completely yet. Maybe when I am 72. I was thinking about the whole music-playing and concert going thing after reading Julia Bascom’s excellent post on “Quiet Hands” last night.” It is extremely difficult for me to let my body move in the way that it really needs to, even though I am a proponent of neurodiversity, an “out Autistic,” a disability rights activist. All that early “training” has not “helped” me, although I am sure it makes others feel more comfortable with themselves.

    Paula C. Durbin-Westby

    November 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm

  35. Excellent post. My son doesn’t flap, but if he did, I would have let him.

    Flannery

    November 15, 2011 at 1:35 pm

  36. What a powerful post.

    halfwork

    November 15, 2011 at 5:10 pm

  37. As tears well up in my eyes and I realize my son just spoke to me through your hands, I feel shame for quieting his voice.
    Thank you for opening my eyes to your world and having the courage to share it.

    aefountain

    November 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm

  38. Why is the guy in the movie DOING that? I am curious, and it still makes me feel ill to look at it, so I am trying to avoid it, but I want to read the responses here as this is an important topic to me.

    Paula C. Durbin-Westby

    November 15, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    • It’s a seen from “Asian F,” the third episode of the third season of Glee. The guy is restraining the hands of the woman because she is wringing her hands in a manifestation of her OCD. He does this almost immediately after learning that her parents tied her hands together as a child for the same action.

      This piece was written as my response to that moment.

      Julia

      November 15, 2011 at 10:04 pm

      • If that girl were me, this clip would be immediately followed by a lot of screaming.

        Nevertheless, it does seem to be a common response. I think that they feel comforted when someone does that with them in response to typical nervous fidgeting, which is not as upsetting to stop. They think that people with Autism/OCD/Tourette’s/whatever will also feel comforted. Which, of course, is why it’s really important to raise awareness that this response is not necessarily going to be perceived as comforting and could instead really hurt the other person.

        Twitchy Woman

        November 16, 2011 at 2:04 am

        • Thank you for this very insightful comment. I believe that if we are going to change the way neurotypicals react to those of us who aren’t, we need to remember that sometimes even the kindest impulses may lead others to do completely the wrong thing in a genuine attempt to help.

          I am neither autistic nor neurotypical. I often do feel comforted when someone holds my hands, when I am moving them out of anxiety. However, I am also incapable of listening unless my hands are occupied with a task. I was fortunate that I only ever had one teacher who insisted that I sit “perfectly still” in class, and that class alone was traumatic for me. For most school, however, it sufficed for me that many activities could be done with my hands under the desk where others could not see, and that doodling looks a lot like taking notes. I am aware, though, that not everyone’s needs are so simply accommodated.

          The “quiet hands” program mentioned in this article sounds like a horribly misguided (and yes, even abusive) attempt to “normalize” behavior, and I (currently a Psychology student) had no idea that this sort of thing was done, or how damaging it could be. OP: Thank you so much for your honesty and bravery in sharing your story. Your words are powerful and eloquent, and I am very glad that the people who brutalized you didn’t manage to steal your voice away entirely. I will share this far and wide.

          abailin

          November 25, 2011 at 11:55 pm

        • These comments are very helpful to me, in understanding this post. As a neurotypical person who has not seen Glee (so I didn’t have the context of the story of her OCD and her parent’s treatment), when I saw that GIF, I unconsciously read it as a sweet and romantic gesture; comforting. It looked (unconsciously) to me like she was in distress, and he was comforting her. So, until I read more, this post was a little confusing to me, because I saw the GIF as a positive thing.

          I’ve learned more since then! Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts, everyone.

          Long live the Internet, for giving us all more opportunities to learn things outside of our experience…

          Hannah

          December 23, 2011 at 2:52 pm

  39. My husband needs a bouncy ball with him all the time, to fidget with, in order to feel OK in the universe. One of his grade school teachers gave him the first one when he observed the little boy he was back then relentlessly picking at his fingers until they bled; that must have been 25+ years ago. Recently at the zoo they told us he would have to surrender his ball; we don’t know why. He politely requested, and was given, a pen to fidget with instead as we wandered the zoo.

    Our 6-year-old daughter stims in various ways, including excited hand flapping. We take it as a sign of extreme pleasure and excitement. It is part of who she is and we love her for who she is.

    Thank you for sharing your story… it’s terrible what’s done to us by people who love us, sometimes.

    bluestockingreads

    November 15, 2011 at 10:46 pm

  40. This is fucking perfect. Thank you *so* much for writing and sharing. I work with children with autism, and we join them with delight in their stims.

    Benjamin Ady

    November 16, 2011 at 12:20 am

  41. beautifully said! thank you!

    Lauri Hunt (@ollibean)

    November 16, 2011 at 12:57 am

  42. I hope this goes viral. I hope the world sees this. This post has the power to change an entire failed system.

    Jennifer Janson Medordi

    November 16, 2011 at 9:10 am

  43. u are amazing

    kajolit

    November 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm

  44. I have no words to explain the pain I feel in my heart after reading this. Thank you

    CaRRiE

    November 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm

  45. Most of the srudents I have spent time with were not able to demonstrate a traditional awareness of cause and effect. I was never fooled by societies interpretation of such qualities. We have to listen to hear. Nice posting. thanks for sharing.
    Here’s one to watch, listen to, and hear what’s being said:

    kingkong49

    November 16, 2011 at 5:16 pm

  46. I loved reading your story. I’ve been working young students with autosm for four years in a therapeutic sub-sparate classroom. It’s an ABA based program. I’ve used the “quiet hands/body” phrase thinking it was helpful. I NEVER meant to hurt them. As a special educator, I’ll find strategy to best serve my students and meet their needs.
    Also, I’ll give my students reasons to move, rock, flap, jump, sing, or whatever they need to learn and thrive. I love my students with autism. I always thought autism is seeing the world from a different angle. Thank you for sharing!

    mares55

    November 16, 2011 at 9:54 pm

  47. As a father of a boy who stimms quite a bit, I found this post VERY helpful. We do Son Rise at our house and we love him as he is. Most of the time, training against stimming is not for the child’s benefit, but for the parents to be more comfortable in public. It’s quite silly.

    Ryan Peck

    November 17, 2011 at 10:09 am

  48. Thank you so, so much for writing this. My four-year-old boy has autism and is constantly feeling or bending things. He also flaps his arms when he’s excited, which gets us some looks but doesn’t bother me one bit. I love that he has a way to tell us he likes something!

    I’m so sorry about the way people treated your stimming when you were a child. I can’t imagine how hard it was, but I hope you keep writing and sharing more insight like this. It is especially helpful for people like me whose child is nonverbal. Thanks again.

    Christy (@bothsidesofcoin)

    November 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm

  49. [...] the blog, Just Stimming (October 14, 2011), a heartwrenching [...]

    Quiet Hands | 8 Second Rule

    November 18, 2011 at 8:16 pm

  50. [...] that these basic steps of self care- and that often is what it ends up being in a way- are wrong. Quiet Hands and You look like /are acting like a R[-word] and people will think you are crazy and [...]

  51. This was really, really, really hard to read. I was diagnosed late, so I was never subjected to ABA, but I’m almost nauseated at the thought of being held down or forced to touch textures. I wish I could say something to make it better. I wish this wasn’t acceptable. I wish everyone who subjects children to ABA would read this and realize how horrible it is so no one else has to go through it. But I know that’s part of what I’m working towards, a future where autistic people are safe, and this reminds me how unsafe we are right now.

    Kathryn Bjørnstad

    November 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm

  52. A famous philosopher once said, “If someone wants to help you, run!” Most people who work with individuals who have disabilities do so to make a living. If you are too normal, it is more difficult for them to get someone to pay for their services. The more they can make you seem disabled and not normal, the easier it is for them to get a job working with you. You are just fine the way you are, let the world get over it if they are uncomfortable around you. Try and understand yourself and you will be your own best guide. I have seen ABA at work in schools and think it is antiintellectual at best, cruelty in practice. Peace and good luck to you.

    kingkong49

    November 20, 2011 at 5:32 pm

  53. We use ‘hands down’ with my granddaughter only when she gets to close to people or things that could either harm her or them. At school they do try to ‘control’ the movements of the kids more than I think they should. Their reasoning is fear of injury, accidental or on purpose. I have said it is like telling a deaf person to not use their hand to talk. Society tries to hard to make them ‘fit in’ instead of learning how to communicate and teach on the level they can understand. Why don’t we make orchestra conductors learn to direct without their hands? To me, it is the same ending, silence.

    Marla Wise Miller

    November 26, 2011 at 9:27 am

  54. Thank you for posting this. I have shared this with as many educators and therapists as I can. : )

    bodylogique

    November 27, 2011 at 10:27 am

  55. When i first read this, I had just spent hours reviewing records for a child the school district wanted to move to a segregated school. Hours of “poking” and “hitting” and “screaming” and, at fourteen a new behavior plan for “table top activities.” it was two in the morning and a woman I have never met in person, but with whom I am engaged in battle with to end the use of “aversive interventions” sent it during her own late night. The next day the parents showed me a video, and low and behold, the child quite literally needs you to look at her hands, because she signs. And in a tantrum, they stopped interpreting for her. Her only option was to poke and hit and scream in an effort to get someone, anyone, to look at her hands. Thank you so very much, we are still in pitched battle, but because of your words here, I think I can get the powers that be to understand what has happened here. Because i can see it, and now, speak it in their language. And maybe a hearing officers order can get them to turn things around.

    nvadvocate

    November 28, 2011 at 1:12 pm

  56. [...] basic steps of self care — and that often is what it ends up being in a way — are wrong. Quiet Hands and You look like/are acting like a R[-word] and people will think you are crazy and countless [...]

  57. Thanks for sharing this. Been trying to advocate in favour of letting children with developmental delays let off steam as they see fit. They NEED it. Who does it hurt that they flap their hands or mumble or even squeal? Relax people! I will be sharing this post. Thanks again.

    Kim Patrick Pomares

    November 29, 2011 at 4:49 pm

  58. [...] This is a response post to this blog here: http://juststimming.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/quiet-hands/ [...]

    Secret Stims « Textual Fury

    November 30, 2011 at 1:35 am

  59. This was beautiful and sad and eye opening. My daughter hand flaps and stims and I adore it. I do it with her. She expresses her joy, her surprise, her excitement in her stimming and the thought of anyone trying to stop that angers me. We have an IEP meeting coming up and while I hadn’t even thought of it before that they may have “issue” with it, I will now be asking them about it and how they handle it. She stims usually for seconds, certainly not long enough to be disruptive to her or anyone else. She would be done before they even finished the sentence to stop.
    If I EVER find out that someone has physically stopped my daughter from her hand flapping, omg.
    I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this post. For helping me see there could be an issue with how others “deal” with my daughter’s stimming because it’s never BEEN anything other than a part of her to us.

    Lainna (@LainneB)

    November 30, 2011 at 3:59 pm

  60. Oh my God. You have touched me in a way that I was not expecting. As a mother of a son with autism, I love his hand flapping and do not allow his intervention program to silence them. But I use “quiet hands” liberally; when he’s drumming on the couch at midnight. When he’s stimming so hard the room begins to spin even for me. When he looks like he might fly away.

    Thank you so much for reminding me that this is HIM. And I need to treasure whatever it is that makes him who he is.

    Quiet hands no more.

    Jo Ashline

    December 1, 2011 at 9:41 pm

  61. [...] Quiet Hands by Julia Bascom [...]

  62. Thank you for this. My son does not have autism, he has Down syndrome. Some of his stimming is abusive (head banging and slapping himself) so we are working on alternatives for that (I give deep pressure scalp and jaw massages.) Others (like rocking on his back and playing in my hair) are fine. He is a toddler (looks younger) and therefore most of his “quirky” behaviors are still cute to outsiders. I admit that recently, I had begin to worry about how he will be perceived by the public when he doing those behaviors. I thought about beginning to correct him. Because of you, I won’t. I will continue to rejoice in his wide open joy, the way he gets so excited and sways his head and body with his eyes focused upward, the way he IS. Thank you.

    Holly Guillory Fedele

    December 2, 2011 at 9:02 pm

  63. I felt injured, bruised, devastated by this.

    When I took my 6yo ASD son to dinner last night, and he was “writing” in the air and on the table and on the walls, and clapping merrily, I asked him, “Has anyone ever told you “Quiet Hands?” He didn’t answer. I told him, “If anyone tells you “Quiet Hands,” you tell them to they have to talk to your mama.”

    dontturnitoff

    December 8, 2011 at 9:31 am

  64. [...] little more than a month after I wrote Quiet Hands, I woke up and found that the number of hits on this site had erupted. Quiet Hands had gone viral, [...]

    Response « Just Stimming…

    December 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm

  65. [...] little more than a month after I wrote Quiet Hands, I woke up and found that the number of hits on this site [i.e. Just Stimming -- ed.] had erupted. [...]

    Response | Neurodiversity

    December 14, 2011 at 1:02 am

  66. I am a special needs teacher and have never prevented a student from flapping or finger twitching movements but I do have a student now who claps incessantly. It is extremely loud and disturbing to the rest of the class. What suggestions do you have to come to a compromise in this situation which is beneficial to all? Thanks!

    Karen Cardoza

    December 15, 2011 at 7:25 am

  67. This question came to mind as I read:

    Why do lovers hold hands?

    fireflyphil

    December 16, 2011 at 10:03 am

  68. beautifully stated, very moving and so important! I have a year old grandlittle who is blind, not autistic, but have already started hearing that there are some self soothing, or self stimulating behaviors ( head slapping, eye poking, arm waving, hand flapping, rocking) that might become “issues” and to be on the lookout to be correcting or redirecting her. I think maybe we will just prevent the eye poking, and head hitting! I hope you gain what comfort there is in hearing that you may be changing the minds, hearts and knowing of many. You are making a difference! Thank you.

    Jean Fultz

    December 17, 2011 at 11:57 pm

  69. Thank you for writing this. My daughter doesn’t flap often, but she does have many verbal stims (now that she’s verbal) and touches absolutely EVERYTHING. I’ve never told her quiet hands, but I have told her to stop touching. Don’t put your hands in that stranger’s purse, don’t handle all the produce at the grocery store, don’t touch the fragile things at Grandma’s house. I had no idea, absolutely no idea, what I was really telling her with my words. Clearly I need to rethink my approach, because like you, I think touch is how she makes sense of her world. I need to find a better way to balance her needs with those of the NTs.

    But what I was struck by as I read your post was remembering all the times the aides in preschool did hand-over-hand with my daughter and how, even at 2, prior to her diagnosis, she fought it. I figured out pretty quickly that if you sat next to her and showed her what you wanted, she would copy. But I had to beg the aides to stop with the hand-over-hand. And even now, 5 years later, I still need to tell new therapists not to do hand-over-hand. And the response is, more often than not, but that’s how we’re supposed to do it. Some listen to me and some insist on doing it anyway. My daughter now responds so aggressively to their attempts that they stop trying pretty quickly. But it makes me sad that she has to do that.

    Thank you for helping to explain my daughter to me. Hopefully one day she will be able to do it as eloquently as you.

    cjpatton

    December 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    • We found with my granddaughter that using the word don’t in a sentence was useless. In ‘don’t touch that’ all she seemed to hear or catch was ‘touch that’. We changed it to ‘that is only for blank to touch’ and she would pick up on the first part more than. Trying to put things into a positive verbage made things a little bit easier on all.

      Marla Wise Miller

      December 18, 2011 at 7:58 pm

  70. I don’t think it’s by accident that I’m a knitter and crocheter. Busy hands are happy hands.

    knitibranch

    December 19, 2011 at 4:27 am

  71. I’d never heard of this “Quiet Hands” thing as an institutionalized way of quelling children until I read this blog. It’s appalling. Good God! They’re fucking with people’s lives! It breaks my heart that kids have been subjected to this in our schools. I wonder about my youngest nephew, the so-called “monster” in my family (i.e. he’s an emotionally sensitive boy who is prone to “tantrums” even at the age of 12 and he doesn’t conform to preconceived expectations of prodigy-level awesomeness).

    I grew up in a time before kids were being regularly diagnosed with Aspergers or autism. I have no idea whether I would have been identified on the spectrum. But for God’s sake, it couldn’t have been more obvious to any of my teachers that I was being sexually abused when I was in the second grade, or the third grade, or the fourth grade, or the fifth grade, and yet no one at home or at school lifted a finger to protect me.

    there was more that I was going to say but I got way off topic. sorry.

    knitibranch

    December 19, 2011 at 5:06 am

  72. [...] Quiet Hands [...]

  73. As the mom of an autistic child, I was more embarrassed about his behavior when I was ignorant of what autism was… btw, I’m still ignorant about a lot of things. Now that I’m understanding more, I’m not embarrassed so much about his behavior. I do, however, try to teach him, as I would any child, when his behavior is inappropriate, such as in church in consideration of other people. During this time, there’s an escalation of noise and movement, so I do try to redirect his attention, by say maybe rubbing his arm, so he’s not so bored and he gets sensory stimulation, and I talk to him a lot to explain things. I never did learn that “quiet hands” thing… and not sure it would even work. It saddens me that children are “trained” to obey cues much like animals. It’s given a name, a label, but really, the kids are being treated, the expectations are as if they’re animals… I don’t like that.

    dragonmommie

    December 19, 2011 at 8:28 am

  74. I love this My David (6 yrs old.) has developed more stims over the last year such as chewing on shirts and tapping me when he is snuggling I have had people in my family get annoyed or grossed out by these new stims but now I have a great way to explain to them why he does these things. I have needed to stim since before I can remember I used to bite my nails until they bled my parents would slap my hand or put nasty stuff on my nails I couldn’t explain to them then that it was something I had to do. It developed to doodling or playing with my hair and I too had teachers that were offended that I was learning while doing these things. I am so glad he has a wonderful school that doesn’t try to stop him from moving and even has ball chairs or rocking chairs for the kids that need them. I believe that the gentle approach he had starting in middle school is what has helped him to become so verbal and intelligent. Thank you so much for this.

    littlemamaundun

    December 19, 2011 at 7:37 pm

  75. I just shared a link to this article with my classmates in an online ABA training program. Someone asked a question about teaching replacement behaviors for stereotypy, and I was so thankful to be able to share this as a counterpoint and resource.

    How different it would have been if the guy in the clip had tried manipulating his own hands the same was she was, just to see how it felt, to at least see about gaining some insight. Or if he’d held his own hands out to hers and waited to see if she felt like touching him.

    Kelly Priest

    December 21, 2011 at 1:49 pm

  76. initially i just loved this scene because to me it felt like will was just willing to…be with her and stop trying to turn her into Super Emma. And then I saw loud hands and it all clicked in a big way i’m lucky enuogh to never have been actively tied down butmost of my stims have been taught out of me.
    when i hand/arm flap, someone usually puts their hand on mine, though.

    lemonadeandlemoncake

    December 30, 2011 at 12:45 pm

  77. [...] for example, the post entitled Quiet Hands by Julia Bascom. Julia has autism, although I suspect most people reading her work would never [...]

  78. [...] think a lot of the people who read my blog are also people who have read Quiet Hands by Julia Bascom. (I actually already linked to it in my own Rocking (and Flapping) at a 1000 [...]

  79. [...] else’s blog post, well actually it started with the practices described in it.  The post is Quiet Hands; and you should read it because its really good.  It made me angry.  I didn’t have those [...]

  80. [...] in October, Julia Bascom of JustStimming wrote a post reacting to a moment on Glee called “Quiet Hands”, In it, she showed beautifully the struggle that thousands (millions?) of Autistic kids and adults [...]

  81. [...] read an incredibly moving and revealing post by Julia Bascom at Just Stimming. The post was called Quiet Hands. Reading that post was a revelation to me and it caused quite a stir in the autism community as it [...]

  82. It’s why I stopped the fix-it therapy and started to love noisy talking expressive precious gently loving perfect hands that didn’t need fixing.

    ailialana

    March 17, 2012 at 6:37 am

  83. Excellent post! I was directed here by lovemanytrustfew, who is one of my favorite bloggers.

    I was struck by your words, “And when you’re autistic, it’s not abuse. It’s therapy.” I understand some of what you feel, as I’ve said simliar things before in response to things folks have suggested or done regarding my son, Sam, who is a 19-year-old with autism.

    gkinnard

    March 18, 2012 at 12:14 pm

  84. [...] I think this post may have reached iconic status by now but in case you haven’t read it:  Quiet Hands and Dear “Autism [...]

  85. Lovely. And a good reminder for all of us parents.

    Lana Rush (@lanalrush)

    April 3, 2012 at 11:59 am

  86. [...] without creating a burst of noise, and also of destigmatizing behavior for which they were punished and bullied as kids. Returning to the neurotypical world after a few days at Autreat was like landing in Times [...]

  87. [...] modification’ for people with intellectual disabilities, I was trained to teach ‘QUIET HANDS’. …  and ‘age-appropriate’ behavior…. to facilitate ‘fitting [...]

  88. [...] Stimming – Julia Bascom is autistic and her writing is powerful. Her blog post Quiet Hands is one of the most powerful things I’ve read and lead to the Loud Hands [...]

  89. [...] “Stille Hände” als Tortur [Englisch] [...]

  90. This is an old post…I don’t know how I landed here but I have two comments: 1) Beautiful. The words written here are hauntingly beautiful. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into you… 2) I actually have general anxiety disorder to a fairly high level. Though I am doing a hundred times better thanks to psychiatric counselling and medication, I have crazy busy hands when I have an anxious moment/episode. For me, allowing my hands (or my feet) to tap, bounce, move around, pick, etc actually increases the strength of my anxiety exponentially. Reducing the movement of my hands or feet is paramount for me to come out of anxiety without having a full blown panic attack. It never even occurred to me that the effect could be opposite with someone who has autism or is otherwise developmentally challenged. Thank you for educating me.

  91. I never heard of quiet hands. This is a good thing. No therapist, no teacher, no para, no aide, no worker, no anybody has tried that with my son.

    kibblesbits

    May 2, 2012 at 9:44 pm

  92. Thank you for this. Sometimes I want to beat people over the head with this message. I have four children, three are old enough to talk but don’t. They stayed “pre-verbal” until at least three years of age. Pre-verbal doesn’t mean they aren’t communicating. My oldest talked exclusively in signs until she almost six. Not all of it was ASL, but she got her point across. We left at least three speech therapists because they couldn’t understand her.

    Thank you for speaking for those who have no voice.

  93. This came very close to making me cry. I remember how exasperated I used to be that my stepdaughter was always poking at things with her toes; when she watched videos, she would grasp and let go the flap of the cardboard box the videos were kept in, flap flap, pretty much the whole time, and I would ask her again and again please not to. She’s 25 now, diagnosed bipolar, and told me recently that she thinks she was self-stimulating that way as a child. *shakes head at self* Thank you for sharing this.

    Mam Adar

    May 3, 2012 at 9:41 am

  94. I love hands. They are beautiful and they make beautiful things, and they are so expressive. I can spend ages looking at people’s hands.
    Thank you for explaining other ways in which people use them.

    Morag Lewis

    May 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm

  95. I’ve read this over and over again, and I cry every time. I send this to everyone. Thank you so much for sharing.

  96. [...] read this with sympathy. It’s a deeply personal criticism by autistic writer Julia Bascom of therapy [...]

  97. I liked the article I’m a 15 year old girl i like to atom it calms me Down I don’t have autism or asbergers. Only when I was little I had sensory processing disorder well grew out of that? It seems to me like stimming isn’t acceptable especially in public or even in my home so I do it in my room? Is stimming for me okay?

    pianist28

    June 30, 2012 at 3:08 am

  98. Pianist28
    My feeling is, if stimming helps you calm down or otherwise feels good, and it doesn’t hurt you or anyone else, then why stop? It is true that some people seem to react poorly when they see others stim in certain ways, but I see that as their problem… it’s not right for them to make it yours. If you feel too scared of how others will react to stim in front of others, then do whatever makes you feel safe and okay. Otherwise, I would say, go ahead, I think stimming for you is okay for as long as you want or need to.

    I am not autistic and do not have Aspergers, and every once in a while I catch myself stimming a little too. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    Really, all people do stim, it’s just that some stims are more “socially accepted” probably just because they are more common. For example, plenty of non-autistic people without sensory processing disorders tap their feet or their fingers a little, or twist their hair around their fingers etc. Other kinds of stims are not as well accepted, not because they’re really any different but just because they are not seen as often.

    Andrea Shettle, MSW

    June 30, 2012 at 1:14 pm

  99. [...] I read this blog post and I thought about violence. But about how many people will think I’m silly for thinking it’s violence. (I don’t have defenses for that, either, so we’re just going to assume we all are on the same ground – tying your students down to stop them soothing themselves with movement is violence.) [...]

  100. Reblogged this on The Creative Crip.

    CreativeCrip

    August 23, 2012 at 11:20 am

  101. Wow, what a powerful post. I needed to read this. My daughter is a teen now and I struggle with what behaviors I should help her manage and what she needs to do as an outlet for her own stressors or as communication. Thank you.

    Jessica (@jessbwatson)

    August 24, 2012 at 9:51 am

  102. [...] Just Stimming – Julia, the mind behind “Just Stimming”, is the person who brought the Quiet Hands essay to the world. But that’s not the only thing of value on her blog – nearly every one of her [...]

  103. This is the most powerful, beautiful piece of writing about autism I have read. I couldn’t have read it at a more significant time either. My son has recently been diagnosed with ASD. This evening as he was practicing piano pieces he asked me to explain a scale to him. He was continually touching the keys as I was speaking to him. I moved his hands away, more than once and he said “ok, I’ll just sit on them for a while.” I’ve never known him to do this before. I know I won’t stop him stimming in future when he asks me for help with schoolwork. I’ll also be keeping a look out for him sitting on his hands. My real concern is that it’s coming from school, with a new term and a new teacher along with it. Thank you.

    jboylie

    September 13, 2012 at 12:19 am

  104. Reblogged this on jboylie and commented:
    Wow …

    jboylie

    September 13, 2012 at 12:21 am

  105. Thank you for a much needed wake up call. I hear you, loud and clear.

    Amy Sorensen Wheaton

    September 19, 2012 at 10:58 am

  106. Beautifully written. I’m undiagnosed but extremely likely Aspies (I’ll spare you the list of reasons), and just a few days ago I was reading through lessons for the Education for Ministry class for Episcopalians, having just started the class. Most of the material is excellent, but inside the “core” material is a section about how to communicate within class that seemed to be…well. The point seemed to be to instill unspoken but very definite *shame* around a whole range of behaviors that are instinctive to me. Not just interrupting (I’ve trained myself not to do that in settings where it’s not accepted, largely by curtailing my level of engagement), but also eye contact (life has given me a complex about that: I have intense eyes, so when I do look, I’m “staring”) and body language and fidgeting. (How can I sit comfortably without my steady, almost-invisible back and forth rock? How can I listen without playing out complex rhythms with my fingertips until they come out even?)

    Just reading it made me anxious. I made a point from childhood of making my tics small, to the point where some people will think I’m lying when I first say I have them. But the ones I have, I NEED, and reading a lesson designed to show the people around me that my best listening behavior is disrespectful made my chest close up. And then I thought I might write to them about it…and then I thought there was no point making an issue of it when maybe we’d never even come around to that part. But now I think again that maybe I will. They can’t know who they’re hurting if no one tells them. Thank you.

    Julie McCord

    September 19, 2012 at 11:11 pm

  107. This is hard to say because I can see that your experience was very hurtful…

    But I loved this scene in Glee because I viewed Emma as someone with a lot of anxiety… and having experienced anxiety as well I know how nice it can feel for someone to hold you. Not to restrain you, not to hold you down, not because there is something wrong with you, but to support you and say “I’m here for you.” I know how it feels for my anxiety to slow with someone holding my hand or holding me, when my anxiety just gets overwhelming.

    And I hope I don’t appear insensitive, it just might be another side, I really want to hear how you feel about this.

    I was also restrained quite a bit in my childhood. I had tantrums and was diagnosed with ADHD. The feelings I remember is first being overwhelmed, throwing a tantrum, and then being terrified when I was held down. To tell you the truth I think what I really have is Asperger’s.

    As someone who is on the spectrum like you, hearing about your experience hurts me, too. It makes me deeply angry at the injustices done against you and others.

    Please keep writing! You are a wonderful writer.

    Virginia Whitney

    September 20, 2012 at 10:16 am

  108. [...] Julia Bascom from her blog Just Stimming, her post Quiet Hands: [...]

  109. [...] Quiet Hands [...]

  110. “Behaviour isn’t communication.” WOW! The *ding ding ding* win-bell just went off in my head. I’m not exceptionally good at reading people (in the normal sense), but special-needs children make as much sense to me as anybody else does, because behaviour is the only communication that tells me anything about people!

    Talking is for abstract ideas – moving and reacting and *patterns* of speech are for expressing how the brain works and what people are trying to get/be/do. Ya know?

    I love your blog. I came through the Music/Math post, and although I have little skill in math, I totally feel the play and joy of it, and wish SO BADLY that they had taught it in a sensible way in school, so I could have got into it before it was basically too late. (Immediately after, I read the post previous to the Math one, and screamed/wept “Ahhh Community!!” at the first paragraph.)

    You are cool. That is all.

    sparksmcgee

    November 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    • Also, how stupid is sheet music? You are so right – I hate its arbitrariness. If you write a mathematical notation system for music, I will totally buy it, and start doing music again. :-)

      sparksmcgee

      November 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm

  111. [...] 3) The Use of “Quiet Hands” [...]

  112. [...] voice. Things started to come together in the fall of 2011, and they got a jumpstart when my essay "Quiet Hands" — about the abuse and silencing of autistic people — went viral. A project centered around [...]

  113. [...] behavior is bad and must be stopped/controlled. Just don’t; you’ll end up with this: http://juststimming.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/quiet-hands/ BETTER [...]

  114. Beautifully written. I left the ss industry when I wasn’t able to convince co-workers that “behaviours” that were not dangerous don’t need to be stopped/adjusted/trained. Everyone has their own tics, but for those where they aren’t noticable, no one ever says anything. I have a compulsive need to walk stairs with my left foot being the last step. Sometimes I switch when the number of stairs is uneven. I don’t notice it, and when other people do and don’t understand it, I can’t begin to comprehend the extended level of this behaviour for someone on the spectrum.

    Just because it doesn’t seem right to a non-spectrum person, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. Teachers should be there to teach, not to train. SS workers should be there to support, not to train.

    Thank you for writing this.

    Lindsay Leggett

    February 8, 2013 at 1:34 pm

  115. [...] I will never understand how people can justify the use of “quiet hands”. If you are unaware of what this phrase means, or of the implications for autistic people, you need to read Quiet Hands by Julia Bascom. [...]

  116. Reblogged this on Appalachian aspie..

    wvaspie4christ

    February 24, 2013 at 3:27 am

  117. [...] Other essays were heartbreaking, particularly “Quiet Hands” by Julia Bascom (which you can read here) and “Killing Words” by Zoe Gross (here), which explored the treatment that autistic children [...]

  118. [...] that tries to turn them neurotypical instead of a neurodivergent person who can cope. (See also: quiet hands.) But that’s a sign of the mental health system [...]

  119. Thank you.

    Now I have a paraphrase from “Finding Nemo” in my head…. “Just keep stimming… just keep stimming…”

    Katherine Rushworth

    April 7, 2013 at 7:47 am

  120. “. . . Not being able to talk is not the same as not having anything to say.”

    Yes. This.

    And I felt every single bit of this post deep inside my heart. Well done.

    wiccanwoman

    April 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm

  121. My teacher used to say “good hands Alex” I never understood why I had to stop, flapping felt great to me! I do try to control it in a public place. Because I might be bullied or something. http://www.alexlowery.co.uk

  122. I have a question – what do you do if the stim in question is something socially “icky” but not necessarily injurious? My 8 year old has a tendency to try out new behaviors, and if it works for him, it stays – the one he’s been doing the last 2 months is picking/rubbing the side of his nostril. Most of the time I try to ignore it, but he really shouldn’t touch others after poking around in there, plus he’s worn a red/raw spot on the side of his nose. He’s super high-functioning, but half the time I don’t think he’s even aware that he’s rubbing at his nose. It doesn’t seem to bug his friends, but it really bothers his sisters.

  123. [...] Quiet Hands – by Julia Bascom [...]

  124. [...] in your direction you can’t even see that’s there’s a 3% for you to move towards me” (http://juststimming.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/quiet-hands/). I wrote this article to remind neurotypicals to make that effort to move 3% of the way towards [...]

  125. [...] her post, “Quiet Hands,” Julia Bascom shares moments from her past when those in power demanded that she stop [...]

  126. [...] children should be forced to endure things they find traumatic for the sake of looking normal (http://juststimming.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/quiet-hands/), or that the caregiver is always right [...]

  127. [...] autistic people, and for good reasons (many of which are nicely explained in the blog post “Quiet Hands” — and a more academic review of why it may be a really bad idea is: [...]

  128. […] Quiet Hands […]

  129. […] and I have entered new territory as parents. There are different views on the subject of swimming. Quiet hands is a phrase that is common in the autism community. I love the view the linked blog post gives on […]

  130. Reblogged this on My Brain Hates Me and commented:
    I flap, and wring my hands, and rub my thighs. I wore long sleeves and balled my hands up in them and wore little holes in the cuff where my thumb pressed against the fabric.

    P. Amazing

    June 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm

  131. Thank you so much for posting this. I am a behavioural aide who works with special needs children, most of whom are also on the autism spectrum, and I’m glad to say I’ve never been trained to use “quiet hands.”

    I only just recently was introduced to this concept, and I couldn’t find words to convey just why I felt it was wrong to tell a child not to stim — as long as he was paying attention to what I needed him to attend to, the stimming isn’t a factor whatsoever. Especially things like hand flapping or fidgeting, which I consider typical behaviour for any person.

    Now that I’ve read this, I feel like I should be sharing this with other professionals in my field. I don’t want to be inadvertently harming the people we’re trying to help, and this seems like a really big deal. So, thank you again.

    epiphanyx7

    June 18, 2013 at 9:42 pm

  132. While I’m grateful to not have grown up with “quiet hands”, I still did (and continue to do) many things on that list. They told me not to do it, grabbed at my hands, etc. One time I plucked a leaf off a tree while coming back from the park at summer camp, and the counselor reprimanded me and I had to hold her hand until we returned to the building. I wish I could send this to those people who told me not to do those things when I was a kid

  133. […] Quiet Hands by Julia Bascom from Just Stimming […]

  134. […] i just read the quiet hands […]

  135. […] for english speakers : a great blog that i just discovered via this post called "Quiet Hands". how can i not love her ?  – the way she talks about maths, seriously ! […]

  136. I am a riding instructor, and I say “quiet hands” all the time – to NT folks. It’s important not to move your hands more than necessary when riding because you are communicating with the horse through its mouth, and s/he will not know what you mean if they aren’t motions the horse knows already (a pull to the right means turn right, a pull back means stop, etc.). Should I ever have an autistic student who needs to flap/stim with their hands, is there anything you can recommend? I know all people are individuals and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another, but I have found ways to deal with common riding difficulties based on common experiences (my students who took a lot of ballet have more problems with keeping their heels down and frequently benefit from the same instructions on how to change this). I just don’t know what one would be in this case, besides a very gentle horse.

    Kellyanne Donnelly

    August 11, 2013 at 1:37 pm

  137. […] But instinctively I know I can’t, and should not do that to J. The quiet game, as it is called, would be a torture to him. I really kind of mean torture. To get a better sense of the meaning I want to impart, please read this: Quiet Hands. […]

  138. […] despite not being intrinsically motivated, usually because we got punished for getting it wrong. Like keeping our hands still. Or forgetting to put on deodorant (I still don’t think body odour, mine or other […]

  139. […] Quiet Hands by Julia Bascom […]

  140. This makes me cry… IMO, stimming, as long as the person is not hurting anyone, or anything, is perfectly acceptable, and I don’t stop my son from doing his stims.

    If someone is embarrassed, or bothered, by a person with autism stimming, then they need to grow up, and get over themself.

    Anne Gagnon Shaffer

    September 9, 2013 at 6:42 am

  141. I haven’t read this until now. My son is six and just started first grade. This ‘quiet hands/body’ isn’t anything I had ever heard before and I was assuming when they used it that it was a reminder for him to listen to the instructions being given, not to tell him not to stim! If I had known that, and now that I do, I will make sure nobody uses this with him again. If they have been doing this the past week and two days since school resumed, that would explain why he’s been having episodes of screaming, kicking and banging his head on the wall at school, something which is totally and completely out of character for him when he’s with me. OMG! There is going to be some throw down at his school soon. They are not the experts, and certainly NOT on my son. I know more about autism then they do or they would know, you don’t push and push and push for compliance until a screaming, punching, kicking head banging fit ensues. Yeah, someone is going to get a stern talking to in the next few days. I just need to gather my wits and make sure I don’t go in fueled by emotion or I will be ineffective in helping my son. Thank you for making this available, I’m just sorry that I didn’t know about it until today.

    Lara Lohne

    September 10, 2013 at 7:15 pm

  142. This is a fantastic post. Thank you. I do not have autism, but I work with several children who do. I want to help them, and am always interested in new/different/natural perspectives. I tried to find a way to e-mail you, but didn’t see a way to send a private message– I’d love to ask you more questions so that I’m able to get a better understanding of HOW to truly help without ever hurting. I can be reached at kellylynnet22@gmail.com if you’re open to sharing more of your insight with me. Thank you again!

    Kelly Tousley

    September 11, 2013 at 4:40 am

  143. […] friend recently shared this blog posting with me by a blogger/writer with autism, Julia Bascom. While watching television […]

  144. […] Julia Bascom on Quiet Hands […]

  145. I’ve never encountered this type of treatment of kids in ABA before. The only time I’ve seen them try to stop a behavior is when it is harmful to themselves or others – like biting themselves or slapping themselves. If someone is out there teaching these things under the guise of ABA, they should be ashamed! We’ve never tried to stop my son’s stimming (he rocks, paces & twists his hair). We are fortunate that he is verbal and was able to tell us that these things make him feel good. He has adapted using them in the situations he needs them in. It is 9 pm in my house when my 14 yr old puts on his headphones, finds his place on the sofa and rocks until his heart’s content – or until it’s 9:30, which is bedtime. :) It’s a nightly routine that I imagine helps him wind down from the day.

    Lela Ellis Robichaux

    September 24, 2013 at 2:47 pm

  146. […] this term makes me tear up. I can’t explain it any better than these bloggers, so please read this, and this, and this. And let your child […]

  147. Thank you for this post. When I worked with children with autism, I was always insistant to co-workers that if a stimming behavior was unacceptable that they help the child come up with a replacement behavior. “Quiet hands” equals a very frustrated individual and will most likely result in a meltdown, or if they have overcome meltdowns, quiet inner torture.

    Laura Gilmour

    October 22, 2013 at 6:33 am

  148. […] of autistic people. Therapies supported by AS seek to force developmentally disabled individuals to act as if they do not have a disability. This is equivalent to demanding that all Deaf people communicate exclusively by talking and […]

  149. […] appear normal, they lock her up. They bind her hands (where her powers come from) with gloves – quiet hands – and they force her to conform or be locked away. This is what happens to autistic kids. We are […]

  150. […] Quiet Hands […]

  151. […] – try to make the unique go away, because it won’t. Trying to make the unique disappear only makes the heart and soul of the PERSON disappear. Looking at the unique without fear, getting […]

  152. […] • Julia Bascom, “Quiet Hands,” (her blog, Just Stimming) […]

  153. […] These articles could have included an explanation about how self-stimulatory behavior, like yelling, helps people, and not just autistic people, deal with the sensory overload they can experience in public.  How about an interview or link to an autistic person’s account, like this post, Quiet Hands? […]

  154. […] call for “quiet hands,” preventing autistic children from communicating and denying them the attention they need […]

  155. Brilliant post. I hate the whole concept of quiet hands the more I hear about it and that image of the mom in the supermarket… it makes me kind of bitterly glad that due to not really stimming with my hands and being diagnosed late I was never subjected to it. But, nobody should be subjected to that.

    Grimalkin

    March 23, 2014 at 4:43 pm

  156. […] was doing the best she could.I have PTSD.(So common as to be almost routine in autistic adults.)(When you’re autistic, it’s not abuse, it’s therapy.)More than 90%, it is estimated, of people with developmental disabilities will experience sexual […]

  157. […] the key idea of each link I post, but they are all worth reading.] One of the first was “Quiet Hands.”  As I read this post, my heart sank.  How many times have I, following the leads of the […]


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